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Peer Pressure

Scripture Reading: Scripture Reading: Psalm 1

Peer Pressure
by Frank Schaefer

There is a saying that goes like this: “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are!” and “a person is known by the company they keep!”

When prisoners are released early on good behavior, they go on parole and during that time, they are forbidden from having any relations with ex-cons or any known criminals. If they are caught in the company of such people, they will go back to jail. Parole officers know from experience that if a parole surrounds him or herself with bad people, he or she is prone to getting in trouble with the law all over again.

In other words, when it comes to relationships, our way of thinking, even our self-esteem and our decisions, we are affected and greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. You may say: “Wait a minute, I control myself and I’m not being influenced very easily.” Well, research has shown that we are more affected by our environment than we think.

Relevance: Living in a Changing World

This is especially true for times when we experience life changes. Take the American college environment for instance:
Suddenly, you find yourself in a more independent role. You must grow up overnight. Nobody to clean up after you, got to do your own laundry, got to find a job, new friends, and keep up with new and harder academic challenges at the same time. You will feel loneliness and you’ll ask yourself: “How do I fit in here?” Who’s going to be a friend, a real friend, who’s going to support me?”

Needless to say that the vulnerability to negative peer pressure is extremely high at this point in our student’s lives. All these pressures, the loneliness, changes and challenges can cause you to be desperate to fit in. You may start hanging out with people you would have never hung out with before, just because they’re in your dorm or in your classes. You never vetted those people, you never really chose these people to be your friends, but because of these pressures you start structuring your life around these people and more often than not, they get you into trouble. And after you wake up to the trouble you’re in, you have an identity crisis on your hand in addition to all the other pressures. No wonder that drug addiction, burnouts, dropouts and even suicide rates are high on our college campuses.

Psalm 1: Avoid Peer Pressure – Know who you are

This ancient Hebrew writing from Psalm 1 has some wisdom to share in this discussion. It’s saying that the most important thing in life is knowing who we are as persons. We have to find ourselves, our values, our vision first. We need to be like a tree firmly planted by the waters and then, and only then, can we avoid peer pressure.

This quest to find ourselves, to know who we are, what we believe in, what we value in life and where we see ourselves going is everything! As we grow up in our homes of origin, we get to a point of independence. We realize that we are our own persons, apart from our family members. We may value a lot of our upbringing and the things we learned, but we can turn out quite different from our parents or siblings. If I look at my own life, I have to say, I am quite different from my parents. I hold different beliefs, values, convictions and goals. This is true for political, religious, and of course, cultural values.

Psalm 1: Think for yourself, get a vision and connect with God

That leads me to another gem that Psalm 1 has to offer: If you want to become this person that is like a tree planted firmly by the waters, you got to think for yourself. You got to read the teachings about God and the world, you’ve got to sort through the religious and philosophical writings for yourself in order to get there. Don’t take anybody’s word for it, not even your parents’ word. Get your own vision of life, and then own that vision. And hopefully, in this process you get to know what you believe in your heart. This will help you connect with God in a positive way—as a friend.
In light of Psalm 1, how do we avoid peer pressure?

Figure out your vision. Sometimes as you do, it means that you may become a loner, it means that you go through life by yourself. But is that so bad? Where did we get this idea that we have to have friends no matter what? No matter what the cost? I tell you right now,

• it’s better to have no friends than to have bad friends.
• You can be your own best friend
• and you can reach out to God. God is always available to be our bestie.

So, let’s beware of the dangers and the potential pitfalls, and let’s choose our friends wisely. Our lives can literally depend on those choices we make.

You must surround yourself with positive, supportive people who want you to succeed in a good way, not in stupid ways…

• Getting wasted,
• having casual sex,
• passing classes on minimum effort or by cheating on tests,
• using or taking advantage of people

those things do not count as success by any standard!

You need to surround yourself with friends that don’t want to bring you down to their messed up existence; you need friends that are solid, who share your values and goals, friends that support you to do good and help you stay away from things that can mess you up and cause you to struggle.

Start changing your life today….

1. Find yourself, find the friend inside you.
2. Discover that God’s is your friend.
3. Find good friends that love, support you and share many of your values.
4. Be the friend to others that you’re looking for yourself and improve that chance that you will find those friends.