How can I overcome peer pressure?
"C'mon, it's just one beer." "Seriously, your parents will never find out about one joint." "Why don't you cuss like everyone else?" "Are you a prude or something?"
Peer pressure. We've all been there. It's hard to deal with because if we give in, we feel awful for not standing our ground. If we don't give in, we end up getting teased or have to deal with continued pressure and pleading to join in. It's always an awkward position to be in. Did you know that the Bible actually says something about this? In fact, the Bible tells us to expect persecution (which, when you're a teenager, means "peer pressure"). Second Timothy 3:12 says that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Yeah, not fun, but before you think you can't handle it, keep reading...
The Long Battle
The world has been trying to pull Christians into their sin since the beginning. Sometimes friends will try to drag us into sinful practices as a means of justifying their own actions, hence the old cliché "But everyone is doing it!" As if somehow a sin is no longer a sin just because more people are doing it. Um...WRONG. Most people who will plead with you to go against your morals or even tease you for standing firm are not friends to begin with. True friends support your moral convictions—even if they do not agree with them.
It can be difficult enough to live a Christian life without outsiders giving us grief, but unfortunately that is part of living a godly life. We just need to know how to handle those awkward—sometimes painful—situations when so-called friends tempt us with sins like underage drinking, sex, vandalism, stealing, drugs, bullying, you name it.
As Christians, we are to be "set apart" from a world that has no problem with sin (1 Peter 2:9-10); rather, we should avoid those things, even if it means a little bit of temporary embarrassment in front of our peers (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33). Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
James 1:12-15 tells us why it's worth it to resist peer pressure: "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."
Here are some practical tips from the Bible for standing by your moral convictions when peers are putting on the pressure:
- Avoid Getting in Trouble - First Peter 2:11 says, "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul." Most of the time, the activities that peers pressure us to participate in are disasters waiting to happen. Beyond a Christian worldview, most schemes that are dreamt up for fun, or to kill boredom, or just because someone wanted to try something, end in a lot of complications, parents finding out, and often getting grounded.
While the best motive for not being pressured into sin is, of course, because sin displeases God, from a practical standpoint, the even Bible says, "Hey, this stuff will kill you!" (My own translation of 1 Peter 2:11.)
- Be a Good Influence - James 1:15 says, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." As Christians, we have the privilege of knowing what lies behind the sin that honestly seemed like a good idea at the time. We are called to be the voice of wisdom when everyone else is turning toward fleshly desires. During those times of peer pressure, look at them as an opportunity to stand up for what you believe in, but also help others see what consequences may come from a bad decision.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." If your friends are pressuring you to do something against God and your moral convictions, use that as an opportunity to share the gospel with them. Who knows? Maybe once you tell them why you're not going to give in to temptation, they might be convinced to see it your (or rather God's) way and stand firm with you.
- Ask for Help When You Need It - Remember that God loves you and wants to help you out of those tight spots. First Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it." Pray for God to help you fight your temptations to give in to the pressure, as well as open doors for you to share His good news.
So, peer pressure? Don't sweat it. First Corinthians 16:13 says, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." When God's got your back, you got this.
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