Dare To Be Different
When I was in high school, I would come home after athletic practice and sit down at the dinner table. My father would ask me, “What did you do at school today?"
Usually, I would respond with a grunt. Well, my dad didn’t like grunts, so he would say something like: “Come on, son! You must have done something today, and your mother and I would like to hear about it.” With no chance for escape, I would proceed to tell them a few details.
It seemed that, without fail, we would drift into a tense discussion about crime, violence, racism, the use of alcohol, smoking, loose sex or how late I should stay out on weekends.
Things would usually cool down over dessert, but often, when I would leave the table to do homework, I could overhear one of them saying, “I just don’t like the way he is being influenced at school. “
Have you ever heard your parents talk about the way your friends are influencing your life? If you are the way I was, your response is to insist that you are not being influenced by them, and you reject what your parents say. For some reason, we don’t like to admit that we are actually afraid of what other people think and that we do copy others behavior.
Peer pressure is a phrase no one likes to use. Therefore, these words are usually avoided, even though peer pressure is a silent influence throughout most of our lives, whatever our age.
It’s not even necessarily a bad expression – our friends can have good influences on us. However, we must admit that friends can and do have strong negative influences on us as well. This is the area in which peer pressure gets a bad name.
Let’s suppose you’re going over to a school friend’s house with a couple of your other friends. Plans call for going to a concert later, but when you arrive, it ‘s obvious your friend’s parents aren’t home.
You don’t know this friend all that well, but your other friends seem to like him a lot. Upon arriving, he says to you: “Here, have a beer. My old man drinks so much he’ll never miss it.”
“Well,” you think to yourself, “one beer’s not going to hurt anything.” Already you’ve allowed others to make choices for you.
There’s plenty of time before the concert, so you and your friends sit around listening to a few cd’s. Your host seems to be laughing a bit too much for some reason. Suddenly he turns down the volume and says, “Hey, let’s really get off for this concert.”
Slightly alarmed, you watch him shake a few red capsules out for you and your friends. Your friends readily gulp down the capsules, but you don’t want to do this. Somewhere in the back of your mind whirls the memory that drugs and alcohol can form a dangerous mix. You’re not sure what your friends are taking, but it looks like a barbiturate.
By now, your hesitation has brought some catcalls.
“What’s the matter – are you scared?”
“I don’t think he’s got the guts – what’d you bring him along for anyway?”
In the next few seconds you have to grapple with powerful emotions. Bucking your friends’ pressure is probably one of the most difficult things there is to do.
But in this case, perhaps you give in. Maybe you think, “Just this once.” Anything to stop the threat to your image.
This is what the Bible calls searing your conscience (I Tim. 4:2). You’re not sure that you want to do it, but you do it anyway. What happens is that you end up breaking down your own principles and self-respect. And once you’ve violated that inner sanctum, you’re ripe for anything because you are no longer being honest with yourself.
How can you avoid this?
The time to think about these issues is before you face a crisis with your friends. Recognize that they are under the same pressure that you feel. They’re drawn into taking drugs or smoking or drinking for the same reason – because they’re afraid to be different.
They’re afraid that the next time their admired friend decides to have some friends over, he or she won’t include them because they’re not much fun to be with. So your friends act like jellyfish and do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do – even things that are harmful to them.
How much better it is to show that you have confidence in yourself when the pressure is the greatest. You can say: “If you guys want to do something crazy, go ahead. But I don’t want to mess myself up.”
Or, if you’re involved in sports, say, “Are you kidding – I’m in training.”
Whatever you say, what’s most important is to think ahead, have something to say and don’t let your friends talk you out of it. Be straightforward, say what you’ve got to say and stick to your decision. These are ways to show you have the courage to oppose the group when they’re wrong.
I’ll tell you something else I have found: Most teens respect a guy or girl who has the courage to be his or her own person, even when being ridiculed or teased. And this kind of person is likely to influence others who are looking for a friend who will increase their confidence. He or she might make it possible for someone else to oppose peer pressure too.
We could look at an endless list of negatives: swearing, drunkenness, loose sex, cheating on tests, disobedience to parents, lying, smoking marijuana, boasting, jeering, shoplifting. Basically they all come under the same category. They are all moral issues – it is possible to distinguish a right and a wrong choice. Therefore our friends can have a hazardous effect on us when they try to get us to compromise our moral standards.
Right now, be honest with yourself. You have no reason to impress anyone, no reason to defend yourself. Be honest and admit that you have had difficulty holding to some of your moral standards, while many of your friends have already forgotten them.
Peer pressure is not a new problem, but how we handle it is very important. The way we face these pressures today will determine how we handle our lives in the future.
In the light of the Kingdom of God (see this title on Page 2 of the Library) it really does not matter what “‘they” – your peers -think, or, for that matter, what anybody thinks. We all need to learn God’s way, then stand up for those things that we know to be right.
Dexter Faulkner ‘Youth’
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