It’s been a long time since high school, but I can’t help remembering the immense weight of peer pressure. Another word for it is “compromise”. Growing up in church gave me very strong convictions. But, before I knew it, this powerful force was causing me to dress differently, talk differently and most important, behave differently.
Twenty years have come and gone since then, and I now know this is a natural obstacle during adolescence. However, I was not prepared for the peer pressure you face in adult life. It seems to be more powerful.
After high school, I felt free to be me. I gained more confidence in who I was. Going to college, working two jobs, a new boyfriend. Have I got it together! On my own, getting married, a couple of kids. This is cool! Hey! What’s this? I haven’t had this feeling since high scho...... Oh no! It’s baaaaaack! Then, the thoughts start:
“I want to be a mom like her.”
“I want to be a wife like her.”
“Why won’t my husband do what her husband does?
“They have a bigger house than we do.”
“They went where on their vacation?! We’ve never had one!”
“Their kids are in soccer, speak Spanish AND play guitar! I better get started!”
“They have their retirement already planned?! I better do that, too!”
And on and on........
You see, peer pressure is not an “adolescent” behavior. It’s a human behavior. The Lord taught me this lesson the hard way, so I would not forget it. It worked.
As a young mother and wife, I joined a bible study with about 12 women. Some had young children, others had teenagers and some had kids in college. It was a great experience. Throughout my 18 months in this study, I really bonded with some of these women. Since they already knew each other, I felt I had to sneak my way in. I was successful. Before I knew it, I wanted to be a mother like “her”, have kids like “her” and a house like “her”. I put these ladies on such a pedestal, Martha Stewart would look small!
Then, I moved to a new town (1500 miles away!). It was harder than I thought to leave my new friends. Much to my surprise, three of my friends called and said they were coming to visit!!! I felt like a little girl. My heroes were coming to see me!!! I worked my fingers to the bone getting the house put together, cooking and making sure everything was “perfect”. They came with their husbands and stayed in a hotel close by.
Within a few hours of their arrival, the pedestal started swaying back and forth. By the end of the first night, it was rocking. That night I was telling my husband, “They didn’t come to see me. They wanted a week-end away from responsibility.” I felt like a brick hit the side of my head. After three days, they had crushed so many of my perceptions of who they were, the pedestal came crumbling down. What happened that caused me to almost feel betrayed? Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that in the security of the company they were in, I saw things in their character they would never reveal in the atmosphere of a bible study. They were not who I thought they were. It took me days to stop crying. During this time, I felt extremely foolish. I asked the Lord, “Why didn’t I see through them. How dumb could I be? I can’t believe I’m still crying about this!” Then, He spoke. It was one of those times in your life, when you hear it like the Lord is sitting right next to you.
“Angie, this is what happens when you take your eyes off of Me.”
There’s another brick on the other side of the head to balance things out. He finished.
“I sent these ladies in your life. You put them in a place they did not belong. Only I belong there. Don’t strive to be like any other person. People will let you down every time. I never will.”
Now I got it. I needed two bricks, a lot of tears and the voice of God for it to sink in.
Since this time, I have made some wonderful friends. I look up to and admire most of them. I gleam a lot of wisdom and encouragement from them. But, they will never make it to the pedestal that I have placed my Lord on. No one ever will again.
Peer pressure is not necessarily a teen thing. We all face it. Everyday. I have a feeling it is here to stay. Be true to yourself, be true to your family, but more than anything, stay true to God.
A. Ragg ©2004