(Don’t let negative peer pressure take you places you don’t want to go.)
by Dan Blankenship
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10 12:13 NIV)
Before I sat down to write this column about teen peer pressure, I discussed the issue with some of my closest friends. The consensus was that there is very little difference between adult peer pressure and teenage peer pressure.
The overall goal of negative peer pressure is to convince others that in order to “fit in” with “the group” certain activities or thoughts must be put into practice, even if those activities or thoughts may be destructive to a person or persons.
The overall goal of positive peer pressure is to convince others to do things that will result in a constructive reward, such as an individual convincing a friend to begin a workout program because it will help both participants to get into shape.
The issue of negative peer pressure has been written about extensively the last few years, yet many teens are reluctant to take a stand when their peers try and influence their behavior and lead them toward harmful activities.
To a teenager, as it is with adults, it is very important to be part of a group. It is simply human nature to want to be around other people and to be accepted. Problems arise when being part of the group becomes more important than holding on to one’s personal values and moral absolutes. And while almost everyone denies being influenced by peer pressure, we all know that negative peer pressure is a worldwide problem.
So what’s the solution? A change in our thinking, a fundamentally different way to view the world when negative suggestions are put upon us is a start. We must realize that the audience of One is more important than our peers. And we must make a conscious effort to think of our moment by moment decisions as a testament to the lives we live. God will not let us excuse abhorrent behavior because we sought acceptance elsewhere, no matter how tempting it is to be one of the “cool” kids. Whether we are coerced to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, lie to our parents, or make fun of less fortunate people, it is our responsibility
One of my favorite movies is Lindsay Lohan’s “Mean Girls”. Lohan’s character, Cady Heron, enters the public school system after years of home-schooling in Africa with her zoologist parents. Cady soon realizes that the African wild presented a less dangerous environment than North Shore High School, where a group of girls known as The Plastics decide where all of the students fit on the social ladder. The more Cady tries to “fit in” with the most fashionable clique the more her troubles advance, and eventually, when the leader of The Plastics, Regina (Rachel McAdams), turns on her, Cady discovers how far she has fallen away from the things she believed in. The movie is one of the most accurate portrayals of negative peer pressure I have ever seen. Tina Fey, from Saturday Night Live, wrote the script and managed to make a teen movie with some real depth to it.
As much as I enjoyed the movie “Mean Girls”, I have to wonder if teens who watch the movie truly get the message I believe Tina Fey was trying to send: At the end of the day, it is our own conscience we lay down with at night.
And from a Biblical and eternal perspective, there is only one we need to be popular with, accepted by, and taking marching orders from – God. If the group we are hanging out with is asking us to do things that God finds offensive, it is time to find a new group. And if we stand up for what is right, others may take notice and make the decision to follow our lead. There is no magical solution that will end negative peer pressure. It is going to be a war that never ends, and each battle that is won will be fought by an individual warrior who is determined to do what is right and not what is popular.