As is commonly known, peers are people of the same age, same interests or social status. Peers hang out together, go to watch a football match together and spend a lot of time with one another. Needless to say that our behaviors and characters are shaped by the people we spend the most part of our time with. These people are none other than our peers.
By the time, one is a youth; their character is already shaped and built by the people he used to hang out with when he was still a teenager. Ultimately, as a young adult, a person picks on the mannerisms or characters of the people he or she works with or his informal group.
Therefore, it is important to know that peer pressure is real. We cannot run away from peers in our lives, however, we should be careful about the kind of pressure that our peers might exert on us to do something. For instance, you might be non-alcoholic but your peers have no qualms about using strong drinks. As such, they will impart pressure on their peer who does not drink into joining them for a drink. Conversely, a born again young man would put pressure on his peer who is a drug addict to accompany him to church for a Sunday service.
Nonetheless, regardless of gender or age we cannot run away from peer pressure in our lives. Mildred sits in a self-help group where every member of the group drives a car except her. Mildred therefore decides to take a bank loan against her wish to buy herself the latest BMW to suit in her group. Still, down the streets, you here such talks as “everybody is doing it nowadays”, “Kickbacks are obvious, people in government take them I don’t mind taking them too”. Peer pressure is a powerful force that influences our lives and we need to say no against it especially when it is negative peer pressure.
Daniel is a biblical character who lived an outstanding Christian life despite living and working with people who did not worship Jehovah. Serving in the royal courts of king Nebuchadnezzar back then, Daniel and his three friends refused to feast on the royal food that contained meat from ceremonially unclean animals. Even when other Jewish inhabitants had conformed to the
Babylonian gods, Daniel and his three friends resolved not to be defiled (full story in Daniel chapter 1).
There are a number of factors affecting the 21st century teenager and youth such as
1. External Influence.
As mentioned earlier, peer pressure could be both positive and negative. With respect to negative peer pressure, an individual is faced with influences that go against his wish and personal values. In today’s high tech life, the youths have become highly tech-savvy and therefore spend most of the time glued to their smart phones, iphones and laptops. This denies them the chance to spend time and interact with adults who would otherwise correct them when they misbehave or go wrong. On the other hand, smart phones come with all manner of content that the youths feed on without guidance from their parents, guardians or pastors. Content such as drugs, devil worship and sexting influences the youth negatively. The media has also great influence on how the present day youth behave.
2. Internal Influence
A youth will low self-esteem is most likely to be influenced by the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of his peers more than his parents. This is because the youth always sees himself as unattractive, unpopular and unintelligent which makes him more vulnerable to peer pressure. Ultimately, this young man sinks deep into negative social influences apparently because of lack of healthy friend associations and spiritual guidance from the church.
Dire consequences of negative peer pressure are right in front of our eyes as evidently seen in violence amongst young people, drug addiction, car accidents, early pregnancies and abortions.
Overcoming Negative Peer Pressure
Youths and persons of any age can learn to overcome negative peer pressure by
• Saying a polite no without hurting or offending others.
The Bible gives a perfect, clear example of politely saying no through the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. He politely said no to sexual advances of her master’s wife.
• Avoiding the source
Joseph had to stay away from Potiphar’s wife in order to avoid the temptation that waylaid him. Many are the times in our lives we want to do the right things but we stay in the company of wrong people. You do not seek marriage advice from a divorcee. Same way you do not seek financial advice from a broke person because he will mentioned to you all the reasons why you cannot make money.
• Fleeing from the source
After repeated nags from Potiphar’s wife unto Joseph to indulge in an illicit affair, Joseph had but only one option; to flee from the source. At times fleeing might cost as our friends but then, there is no point in sacrificing your bright future for an individual who is leading you to a gutter.
• Being prepared to pay the price
After standing his ground against Potiphar’s wife, Joseph ultimately found himself in prison for crimes he had not committed. In overcoming negative peer pressure, we might pay the price in one way or another by losing our friends, false accusations but it is worth it because in the end you will be healthier, wiser and stronger.
• Parent’s Teaching
Parents should teach their young children at an early age to make rational decisions. They should constantly approve and disapprove on the kind of friendships their children entertain and thereby mould them into making the right choices in life. On the other hand, children should be free to share the kind of friends they have with their parents.
• Choosing their friends wisely
Friendship with an angry man makes one an angry person too. Youths should choose on friends that reflect their deepest values and qualities and shun them that project vice.
• Refusing to be fooled by moral relativism
This is an attitude that says am okey, you are okey, no matter what we think and do as long as it does not hurt the other person. How WRONG! Whatever we do affects others directly or indirectly. If I play music on my home theatre at the highest volume, yes, it is cool but to my nearest neighbor that would be noise and a breach of environmental laws. Having this kind of attitude weakens our resolve to be moral and mind others, however, if we focus on building our character by watching and reading what has the ability to influence as positively, life will be better.
If you are out there struggling with peer pressure, not all is lost and you are not alone. Most people succumb to peer pressure because of the fear of rejection and the need to be accepted. As such, because of their insecurity, they fall victim to manipulation from their peers and are influenced negatively. Nevertheless, we should always be bold and stand up for what we believe in.
STAY ON TOP!