Negative Peer Pressure
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In The Difference between Negative and Positive Peer Pressure, writer Denise Witner states,
Peer pressure is not a bad thing. We all are influenced by our peers, both negatively and positively. It helps define who we are and how we feel about subjects in our lives. It is how we chose to react to peer pressure that defines who we are as an individual. Are we a leader or a follower? Both types of people are needed to make the world go around . . .The difference between negative and positive peer pressure is the outcome.²
Everybody feels peer pressure at one time or another. We might choose to belong to a particular group or organization, i.e. political parties, gangs, or church denominations. Our peer groups encourage us to conform to that group’s beliefs, values, and behaviors. This can be seen as either a positive or negative change of one’s attitude or compliance to a group’s belief system. Someone might be influenced to wear only gothic punk clothing while someone else might be positively influenced to join a spirit-filled church group. We all desire to be accepted and secure in our own little conclaves.
We tend to think of peer pressure as a feature that only teenagers experience, but that is not true. Today, peer pressure follows us no matter what age we are. But, as a believer, when negative peer pressure tempts us, we must decide to follow the crowd or follow Jesus.
Peer pressure tempts all age groups. In the teenage years, young people are sometimes attracted to the wrong crowd or friends. They can be drawn into risky behaviors that can be detrimental to their health and safety while others are drawn into a peer group that stresses high achievement and more positive activities. In the young adult years, one might be drawn to compete with their friends for the bigger house, the most kids, the best jobs, or even the best mani-pedi. In middle age, one could compete for a position in the Women’s Club or on the tennis team. And, for those who work, one may be striving for that vice-president job that everyone in your department is striving for. When children are ready for college, parents might feel pressure to get their children into the best college or university, buy a second home, or even try to outdo others for the most prestigious church ministry. One would think that following the crowd would die down when reaching the golden years, but there are seniors competing for the best home update, car, portfolio, assisted-living home, and even the best medical alert system.
There is no age or culture immune to peer pressure. Just because “everyone is doing it” does not make it right. In Uganda, Africa, many women are peer pressured to apply harsh chemicals and carcinogens to their skin to lighten it. This process is very harmful, but there is so much pressure for the women to be beautiful. They are led to assume that their beauty comes from being lighter and fairer than others.¹ The pressure to fit in is even prevalent in poor countries even though grave harm may come upon people. In the case of the Uganda women, the chemicals could burn their eyes or cause cancer in their bodies. Young people are joining gangs and the potential dangers often costs them their lives. In addition, joining a gang may cause drug addiction, violent behavior and possible prison time. Following the wrong crowd and trying to fit in can cause lifetime consequences. We must stress this upon our children.
Negative Peer Pressure may lead to . . .
- Risky Behaviors: People will be influenced to participate in risky behavior that may lead to jail time, prison incarceration, a ruined career, and more.
- Misguided Friendships: People will be continually attracted to the wrong crowd and friends.
- Single-minded Dependence: People will depend upon “their group” for help and guidance; thus there might be a non-dependence upon family and/or God.
- Inconsideration: People will hurt those that love them by their actions and words.
- Short-sightedness: People will be impractical or imprudent by not recognizing their reputation may be damaged and/or opportunities may be lost by the groups they associate with.
Just as there is a cost in following the wrong crowd, there is a cost in following the Lord. Luke 14:27-30 says,
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
Throughout the Bible, we see people choosing to follow God and not the world.
In Genesis 7, Noah obeyed God and built the ark while “the crowd” sinned and the Lord saw the wickedness of man. The evil continued and eventually the people were destroyed by the flood — all that is except Noah and his family who separated themselves from the wicked people and obeyed the Lord.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar as the crowds were doing. But, the king threw them into the furnace and heated it seven times more than it was usually heated, but they survived. They decided not to follow the crowd, and God delivered his servants who trusted in him.
When we decide to follow Christ, we can stop worrying about what other people think of us. We know that God is the one directing our steps. We can trust in what the Holy Bible tells us to do. We believe that the Holy Spirit is directing our lives and are able to avoid the tangles brought by the popular culture of the world. When obeying the Father and striving to be like Jesus, every decision we make will be made through the eyes of God.
While costs are involved in following both the crowd and Jesus, the benefits of following Jesus are so much more.
BENEFITS OF FOLLOWING JESUS
- Assurance of salvation and life after death in heaven;
- Comfort in knowing there is a purpose in their life;
- Forgiveness for our past, present, and future sins;
- Love from Almighty God;
- God’s peace in life.
- Ability to trust that God knows the big picture of our lives; and
- Joy as we use our spiritual gifts and develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
While there are many who try to live in both the secular world and the spiritual world, the Bible warns against those who become complacent in their Christian walk. Many times those are believers who have accepted Christ, but have never grown deep roots into the things of God.
Old Testament Joshua says,
Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 23:14-15
If you are hanging with the wrong people, it is time to decide whom you will serve. God will give you the courage to choose Him. Choosing to follow Christ means a change – a change of attitude – a change of friends in some cases – and an understanding that following Jesus Christ will create a positive shift in your life. These changes will become more and more positive as they grow roots through Bible reading and prayer.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”— my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. Proverbs 1:8-19
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ Matthew 11:18
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:15
Heavenly Father, let me see areas where I am following the crowd and giving into unnecessary peer-pressure. I am asking you to change my life so I can follow you fully in everything I attempt to do. I want you to change my heart and may I always bring glory to you. Let me believe and trust that you will respond to all my needs as I give take up my cross to follow you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
¹Strickland, Ashley. Light and shadows: Skin bleaching in Uganda. CNN. 22 Jan 2016. Online.
²Whitner, Denise. The Difference between Negative and Positive Peer Pressure. About Parenting. 4 Dec 2014. Online.
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