By Ronald E. Harper
“But everyone’s doing it!” That is the oldest statement of peer pressure. I even felt peer pressure when I was younger, too. I know what you may be thinking. 1 must have gotten mad when I was not allowed to go to the dinosaur races. I mean, everyone was at the dino-races, except me. (I am that old, according to my son.) I know that things are different now than they were a few years ago, when I was younger. However, one thing has certainly not changed. Satan will still try to use peer pressure to cause the downfall of many Christians today. Adults face peer pressure in the work environment on a daily basis. This is not just a phenomenon for youth. Learn how to deal with it effectively now. You will save yourself some trouble as you grow older.
Peer pressure can be defined as the influence of a social group upon an individual. Children and teenagers feel social pressure to conform to the group of peers with whom they socialize. This peer pressure can influence how they dress, what kind of music they listen to, and what types of behavior they engage in, including risky behaviors such as using drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, and engaging in sex. Peer pressure will vary in intensity from situation to situation.
Let us look at a couple of things about peer pressure. First of all, no matter what they may say, whatever “it” is, not everyone is doing it. As long as you don’t do wrong, then everyone is not doing wrong. In fact, your commitment to doing what is right may empower someone else not to give in to sin. If you resist the peer pressure to give in to this temptation, you may cause someone else to have the courage to say no.
According to the September 2002 issue of Current Health 2, A Weekly Reader Publication, the following are strategies young people can use to deal with negative peer pressure effectively:
* Avoid putting yourself in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. For example, if you don’t want to start smoking, stay away from areas where you know kids go to smoke.
* Choose your friends wisely. If you hang around with people who share your values, chances are you’ll never be asked to do something you don’t want to do.
* Think about the consequences whenever you are asked to do something you are lot sure about. Stop for a moment and ask: Will this activity get me in trouble? Will it be harmful to my health?
* Be true to yourself. Think about the reasons why you are considering doing something you are uncomfortable with. Is it to gain popularity? Although there is nothing wrong with wanting to be popular, there are right ways and wrong ways to achieve it. If you change your behavior just to fit in with a particular group, you are not being true to yourself.
* Learn how to say no. This is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world for many people to do, but it is an essential skill if you are to successfully fend off negative peer pressure. There are many ways to say no, some of them subtle and some of them a little more “in your face.” Several examples are: “You sec it your way. I see it my way.” “If you are really a friend, then back off.” “You must think I’m pretty dumb to fall for that one.”
When you give in to sin, you only increase the peer pressure on your friends. You become a trophy for Satan to use to cause some other soul to fall into sin. What will they say about you? “John is a Christian, and he is doing it.”
What does the Bible say about peer pressure? We can gain some insight into peer pressure through a biblical perspective.
The hardest temptation from peer pressure you will ever endure is from the person who you may feel is your friend. if it was someone whom you didn’t like, you probably would not even want to do what they are doing. Remember the second point that was made in the list of strategies. “Choose your friends wisely.”
A good example of this in the Bible is Amnon. His story is found in II Samuel 13. Jonadab was a friend of Amnon. He talked to Amnon and convinced him to rape his half-sister.
The first question you need to ask yourself about the person you have as a friend: “Is he/she a Christian?” If the answer is no, then you must realize that your answer to temptation will affect your testimony to your friend. Would you want to be the reason that your friend rejects Christ and chooses to spend an eternity in hell?
If your friend is a Christian and is trying to influence you to commit a sin, will your moment of weakness cause a weaker friend to stumble and fall even farther from God? In I Corinthians 8:10, Paul gave a warning. “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to cat those things which are offered to idols?”
The best piece of advice is to try to surround yourself with friends who are Christians. Start a Bible study group and reach for the other people in your age group. Begin to exert a little positive peer pressure.
What is a friend? The definition of a friend, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “one attached to an-other by affection or esteem: a favored companion.” What are the conditions of having a friend? Affection and esteem. Do your “friends” measure up to this test? In Proverbs 17:17, we find a great piece of advice. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
I have seen too many people fall into sin and then be left alone after it is over. I am sure you have, too. Have you ever heard of a guy leaving the girl whom he got pregnant? It happens every day. He told her that he loved her. Then, he was gone.
The same was true for the prodigal son. Read Luke 15:13: “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” He hosted big parties. Everyone wanted to be his “friend.” Consider the wisdom of Proverbs 19:4. “Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.” The same thought is also found in Proverbs 14:20: “The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich bath many friends.” What happened to the prodigal son when he could no longer afford to throw the parties? No one came to help him. No one invited him to a party, not even a meal. He got the opportunity to learn the pig business from the mud up. He was left alone in the pigpen to drool over the slop that the pigs were eating.
Too many of the people we call our friends will only want to be our friend as long as they can get what they want out of us. Will they really be there when things go wrong? No one really wants a fair-weather friend.
I know that we have all probably heard that old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Have you ever really thought about it? Abraham and Moses were both known to be the friends of God. David was a man after God’s own heart. Do you want to know something that is even better than that? Do you realize that God is your friend? In Proverbs 18:24, we find a great promise: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Read John 15:13-14: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” God loved you enough that He robed Himself in flesh and came to earth to die for you and for all of your sins.
I don’t like to sound melodramatic. However, when approached by a situation where you will encounter peer pressure, the question you need to ask is a very simple one. “Who would I rather have for a friend?” You can choose the person who is trying to pressure you into doing something wrong or even harmful. You can choose Jesus. Before you make that decision, read James 4:4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” The choice is yours and yours alone.
The power to overcome peer pressure is found in maintaining a good prayer life. Let us look at some things about prayer in the next section.
This article “Peer Pressure” written by Ronald E. Harper is excerpted from his book Preparing The Next Generation: Sound Doctrine For Young Men.