When we hear the words “Peer Pressure”, we think of adolescent teenagers influencing each other towards bad behavior. We believe teenagers to be weak, impressionable and easily persuaded by those around them because of their desire to "fit in".
Well, there’s nothing wrong with teenagers. They’re not any weaker, impressionable or more desperate to fit in, than WE are.
People blame the media and pop culture for the problems of this country, but the strongest force on people is peer pressure: the influence of those who desire us to live like them or in a way that they approve of. Whether a single person or a large group, we all affect each other positively and negatively through cues and pressures that subconsciously tell us what behavior is OK and what is not OK.
Whether by example, indoctrination or intimidation, peer pressure is a MIGHTY FORCE that we ALL DO to each other.
Everyone pressures us to live our lives as THEY see fit. You can be 16 or 61. Human nature and societal groupings pressure us daily to conform. It has nothing to do with age. This is why society is in a constant state of struggle. We are pulled from all sides to join different groups, make alliances or follow an ideology.
As Christians, we are always presented with things that may compromise our faith and beliefs.
We all form groups to belong and making friends and forming bonds are an important aspect of socialization. Through friendship and community, we teach each other the behaviors, rules and taboos for maneuvering through our society. How you behave, what you believe in, how you perceive things has been taught to you by your community. Learning from each other is very beneficial to our survival and success as a group.
Even if you don't think you're a member of any group, you still are. Your sex determines your first group. Your sexual orientation another. Your ethnicity puts you in another. So just being a "straight, white, male" or a "gay, black, female" places you in groups not of your own choosing.
And though many of us will say that we aren't influenced by anyone, there is an invisible group that we seek approval from who think a certain way, talk a certain way and act a certain way.
We are even affected by some people whom we barely know or have never met. They can be people from the past, people whom we've read about or a fictional person portrayed in a movie. We are influenced by a collection of people who reside in our consciousness and whom we draw inspiration from.
Even negative people have affected us by the fear, pain, anger and intimidation they have forced on us. Their effects are sometimes the hardest for us to shake off. Many victimized people live under the shadow of those who sought to control them.
For many of us, belonging to a group is tied to our very identity, and loyalty to them sometimes make us bow to the pressures to follow wherever they go, whether good or bad. Some of us who are too weak to say "no" may follow our peers even though their actions may conflict with our fundamental morals.
Instead of listening to the gentle voice of God to do good, we cave into the loud voices of our peers who seek to use us to make their group stronger so they can succeed.
How many of us are pressured in the office to do things unethically, take the short cuts, lie to make a sale or cook the books? Or as students expected to cheat, share answers or skip out? Or with our friends, expected to give into gossip, drinking, or acting out?
Many groups even teach us how to IGNORE some problems, pretending they are not problems at all!
How many of us in our youth had friends who picked on one kid and we joined in because we wanted peer approval. We ignored the hurt we caused the kid because our need for acceptance was stronger than our sense of morality.
Peer pressure gets its strength in numbers. The reward for conformity is friendship, advancement and success. Non-conformity means isolation and demotion. Unfortunately, when the group is large in number, those who disagree are timid to speak up. They are outnumbered. So much injustice has proceeded because there weren't enough voices who spoke up and disagreed.
And we have seen today and in the past how peer pressure can persuade millions of people to rally against a smaller minority and justify it to themselves.
Birds of a feather do indeed flock together... and try to get other birds to change their feathers!
All groups at some point, pressure us to do things we know may not be right, ignore damage we may be causing, protect itself from harm or persecution and absolve itself of any wrongdoing.
When we are willing to do anything to uphold the group ideology, we use tactics that compromise our own morals, beliefs, standards and justice. Some of these tactics may even go against the ethics of the ideology itself!
As gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people we are a witness to our Christian brothers and sisters who say they are serving God, yet practice prejudice against us and leading others to do the same, forgetting Jesus' words, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."
Unfortunately, we all do this to each other. Each person has their own select target of people whom we deem as our opponents and we actively try to corral others to join our ideology against another. We all participate in this.
When we discriminate, criticize, argue, tease, or judge someone we are exercising pressure to let people know that we disapprove of them. It is a way we all try to control others and deny them the right to live freely.
Many of us just go with the flow of our peers so as not to lose our status within the group. Caving into peer pressure is bad when it causes us to do things against our moral fabric, because we have compromised ourselves. Our need to "go along with the crowd" is very strong. No one wants to be the weirdo, the odd man out, the outcast or the loner. Our fear of isolation can cause us to do and say things we know are not right.
We are really not the rebellious, independent freethinking leaders that we believe ourselves to be.
We need to reflect on our true beliefs, behaviors and ideology and make a conscious decision to stand up for them in action. Instead of imitating our peers, we need to heed the voice of God.
Even the most well intentioned spiritual groups may lead each other to ignore hypocrisies, not speak up when something needs to be said, turn a blind eye to problems, avoid participation when action is necessary or pretend that everything is honky dory when they are not.
Wherever people gather there will always be pressure to conform. It is unavoidable, but we need to understand that when we follow our peers blindly, we may not see clearly that their paths may lead away from God.
Take charge of your spirituality and ask God to free you from the false pressures of man whom you may have been casually following and search yourself to see if you might be pressuring others in ways that are not holy.
Seek friendships with those who will influence you in a good way, who are positive, supportive, and who love and serve God. Their fellowship will encourage you to live with integrity.
Be a positive influence to all people you come in contact with and though you may not see eye to eye with everyone on all things, understand that God created ALL people and desires you to show the same love, kindness and goodness to them, as He shows to you.
Instead of the bowing to the pressures of people who act for their own interests, look to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit be the One who guides you to God's service for the love, healing and salvation of His people.
© 2009 Edrick
|Main Menu||Back to Articles|