Teenage Peer Pressure
How do pre-teens and teenagers deal with peer pressure?
Peer pressure is defined in many different ways. Some are good, and some aren't. Our friends, "peers," have a large impact on our decisions in life, whether we know it or not.
Let's say that you have a big project due in two days, and you've hardly started. Your best friend comes up to you in study hall when you're listening to music and not doing anything worthwhile, and she tells you to get a move on with your project. You might respond with a "whatever," or "yeah, but I have lots of time to do it later." Your friend doesn't give up so easily though. She cares about you and wants you to get a good grade. Finally, you give in and start your project.
This is a good kind of peer pressure. Your friend wants to see you succeed and do your best -- not fail. We all need to listen when our friends try to help us out with something like this. It's for our own benefit, not theirs. We want to try to be this kind of friend.
Bad peer pressure is the type that we really need to watch out for. It can come to us in many different ways, trying to sneak into our thoughts. Pre-teens and teens give into peer pressure because they think it's the "cool" thing to do. But we need to stand up for what we believe in and learn how to say "NO" to what our instinct tells us is wrong. We can't let people lie to us and make us think that doing something we know is wrong is actually okay. It's not.
We read in the Bible, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man; do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared" (Prov 22:24, 25). This proverb is telling us to watch who we choose as our friends. People we thought might be life-long pals could one day end up doing drugs and try to bring us down with them. They might try to have us do the same drug. If they get caught, they could even blame everything on us. This is only one of many scenarios teens face daily. Others range from small things, like "forgetting" to do homework one night, to bigger things, like skipping class or shoplifting.
So a good way to help say "NO" to peer pressure is to have friends who feel the same way as we do, friends who can say "NO" to peer pressure with us. This way, we're not alone. It's also easier to talk to someone about the issues going on in our lives.
If we think about it, we really don't want to give into the bad type of peer pressure. The Bible has lots of examples of what happens when we do. Just look at Adam and Eve: "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'" (Gen 2:16, 17). Later on, a snake tricks Eve into mistrusting God's words. She gives into pressure from the snake: "So when [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes … she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen 3:6). Adam gives into peer pressure when Eve offers him the fruit from the tree which God specifically told him not to eat from. Since he saw Eve eating the fruit and not dying, he thought it would be okay to eat. They both fall to pressure.
We might confront peer pressure this way: Your best friend just tried cigarettes. You've known your whole life that smoking is bad for you, but your friend convinces you that it's okay, cool, and fun to smoke. So you decide to give it a try. Then you get caught doing this wrong act, and you're embarrassed, feeling just how Adam and Eve feel when God catches them and reprimands them for eating the forbidden fruit.
It really doesn't pay to give into bad peer pressure. So what can we do?
- We can think about what our parents would say.
- We can find friends who have the same moral values as we do.
- We can also remember that what we do now affects our future.
- We can turn to the Bible for support and ideas.
Emily Bartelstone, age 14
The Bible has lots of examples of people who successfully overcame peer pressure. Here are just a few:
- Abraham left his home town where everyone was worshiping idols so he could worship God.
- Joseph stood up for his own moral values despite the pressure from Potiphar’s wife.
- Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego faced major penalties for praying to God rather than to a statue, but they were saved.
- Jesus faced the pressure from the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes to show us what it means to love.
As we face peer pressure (no matter what age we are), we can find support from the Bible. Ephesians reminds us that prayerfully and spiritually arming ourselves is essential to standing up to peer pressure successfully:
In conclusion, be strong – not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless strength. Put on God's complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil's craftiness…. Therefore, you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil …, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, integrity your breastplate, the gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. (Eph 6:10, 11, 13-17 Phillips)