Overcoming Negative Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is a strong force in a teen's world – for better or worse. The definition gives us an insight into why. The American Heritage Dictionary online definition says peer pressure means "to behave in a manner similar or acceptable" to our peers. I have seen a lot of positive peer pressure – pressure to do well in school, to stay out of trouble, or even to attend church, for example. The reason why teens often yield to peer pressure is obvious – most of us want to be liked and accepted by our peers.
But peer pressure isn't always good. It can be bad. Teens are often pressured into doing drugs, having sex, or stealing. In fact, peer pressure is most often considered a negative thing.
Resisting the Pressure to do Pot
I was pressured a lot by kids at my old school, and I didn't always handle the negative peer pressure well. But when it comes to things like doing drugs, drinking, or stealing, I resist the pressure – even if it isn't easy at first. I have seen how these things mess up people's lives, and I don't want to go to jail.
For example, when I was in eighth grade, some of my friends asked me to smoke marijuana with them. I actually considered smoking it. But I had a bad feeling that I would either get caught or do something really stupid that I would regret while I was high. So I decided not to go with them. Later, I found out that they got into a lot of trouble. Not only did their parents find out, but the police did, too, because my friends decided to steal from the mall while they were high. When they got caught, they tried to fight the police and got into even more trouble.
I am grateful I made the correct choice. I listened to my intuition rather than to my peers. I was really listening to God. If I had gone with my friends, I would probably not be able to attend my new school because I would probably still be on probation.
But what about my friends? Were they bad because of their choice? All sorts of people face peer pressure, but just because people give into pressure doesn't make them bad. They've just made bad choices. But we can all make good choices – and the Bible shows us how.
Falling under Pressure and Fear
Many of Jesus' disciples felt some sort of negative peer pressure for being one of Jesus' students. Peter is a good example. At the end of his career, Jesus was arrested and taken to the Jewish high council at the Temple in Jerusalem. Peter followed Jesus, wanting to see what happened to him. During that time, Peter was asked three times if he was one of Jesus' followers. Every time, he replied with a "no." Peter didn't deny Jesus because Peter was bad. Maybe he denied him because people were showing hatred towards Jesus, and he didn't want to be hated himself. He probably feared for his safety. Peter felt the same pressure anyone else would have felt in that situation. But when Peter realized what he had done, he "wept bitterly" (Matt 26:75).
After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, Peter's life changed. He had a new-found conviction about God, and may have finally understood more of what Jesus had been teaching. No one and nothing could really hurt him. As a result, Peter chose to preach the word of Jesus Christ of Nazareth -– to share with others what he now knew with certainty was the Truth.
Taking a Stand for Truth
After Peter (and John) healed a lame man (Acts 3), the religious authorities arrested them (Acts 4). They asked Peter and John by whose authority they had acted. Peter told them they were preaching -- according to Jesus, who had been killed. The priests couldn't do anything because Peter and John hadn't committed a crime. So they told them to stop preaching because they were afraid that everyone would start to follow Jesus' word again and lose interest in their way of life. Peter and John explained that they weren't going to stop spreading the truth because they knew it was the truth and that no one could really harm them because God would never allow it.
Peter and I both had a choice to make – Peter had to choose whether or not to continue preaching, and I had to decide if I was going to go with my friends. If Peter had chosen to stop preaching the truth after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, he wouldn't have found the Christian church. If I had chosen to smoke with my friends, I would have ended up in trouble. We both benefited from making positive choices.
We are all faced with peer pressure. We all have the opportunity to choose to follow God.
Here are some ideas that helped me with negative peer pressure.
- Know what is true in your situation.
- Listen to your intuition, which is really just thoughts from God, rather than your peers.
- Learn from your mistakes, and have conviction in God.
- Follow God, and trust in God’s protection.
- Understand that it is God’s acceptance of us, not our peer’s, that is most important.