Young People Ask . . .
Should I Be Afraid of What Others Think?
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN THE FOLLOWING SITUATIONS?
● One of your friends smokes and he offers you a cigarette in front of your other friends. You feel it is wrong to smoke. They are all waiting to see what you will do.
● Some of your schoolmates begin to talk about making love with their boyfriends. You want to stay morally chaste. One of these girls says to you: “I know just the boy for you. In fact, he’s been wanting to meet you. Come over to my home after school today, he’ll be there. My parents are gone so you can be alone.”
● You are in a car with four other boys. One pulls out a bottle of little red pills, pops one into his mouth and hands it to the fellow next to him. This one laughs, takes a pill and passes the bottle to the next boy. All four have taken the pills and you are the last one to be handed the bottle. You hesitate, and one shouts, “Come on, sissy. What’s the matter, you scared?”
● The kids tease you about being friendly with a new girl in school because she’s from the “wrong side of town.” They all seem to be giving you the silent treatment whenever you are around the new girl.
PERHAPS you have been faced with similar group pressure. You may say, “I’m not afraid of what others think,” but situations like these make it extremely difficult not to give in to the thinking or action of your peer group.
No one likes to be made fun of for being different. Being different and being ridiculed because of it is worse than death to some young persons. For instance, one fourteen-year-old boy committed suicide and left this note: “I love you, father, but I just can’t go on through life. I can’t take the ridicule . . . at school.” How sad! But it illustrates the power of ridicule and the inner pain it brings. Have you ever been distressed because of what your peers would think? Have you compromised your own standards because of such pressure? Maybe you feel caught in the middle between your parents and your peers.
By now you must realize: You cannot please everyone. If you are afraid to say “no” to your peers you end up saying “no” to someone else. It may be to yourself—to your own standards—or to your parents. So the questions you have to answer are: To whom will I say “no”? Whose opinion and feelings should I view as more important? In other words, you have to set some priorities. To do this requires . . .
Many young persons let others do their thinking for them. Rather than deciding for themselves the best course, they follow the crowd. For instance, fifteen-year-old Robin admitted that she started smoking because everyone else did. But she added, “Later on I began to think, ‘I don’t like it. Why am I doing it?’ So I don’t anymore.” By doing her own thinking she developed the courage to stand up to her peers. Of course, some young persons have doubts about their own thinking ability. You may even feel somewhat unsure as to what are the proper standards.
A source of help is the Bible book of Proverbs. It can “give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” Anyone who heeds its advice will acquire “skillful direction” in his life. How?—Proverbs 1:1-5.
Well, for one thing the inspired advice in Proverbs can help you to make your own decisions. You will not have to lean on your peers for directions. It can help you to recognize whose opinion you should be concerned about, for it will show you what principles are right and worth standing up for. Here is some practical advice from the book of Proverbs:
“The wise one fears and is turning away from badness, but the stupid is becoming furious and self-confident.” (Proverbs 14:16) The wise person with thinking ability does not become “self-confident” and ignore every opinion. He or she does not say, ‘No one tells me what to do!’ “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” (Proverbs 19:20) Yes, heeding the advice of those who give you the “counsel of Jehovah” as found in the Bible will be in your best interests. But reason on the counsel. Try to see the basis for it and thereby make it a part of your own thinking.—Proverbs 19:21.
Thinking ability, according to Proverbs 2:11-19, will safeguard you from doing the wrong thing and will keep you away from people who stir up trouble or who are immoral. But when your peers see that you will do your own thinking and stand up for right principles, expect some problems. Why?
Hated Because of Thinking Ability
“The man [or, woman] of thinking abilities is hated.” (Proverbs 14:17) A young person who exercises his thinking faculties and refuses to conform to improper peer pressure is often disliked and ridiculed. But should such ridicule really bother you? Should it make you feel worthless?
Think: Who has more strength, those who have no control over their passions and emotions or those who can say “no” to improper desires? (Compare Proverbs 16:32.) Where are such ridiculers headed in life? Is that where you want your life to end up also? Could it be that such ones are jealous of your ability to have accurate knowledge and thinking ability? “The ridiculer has sought to find wisdom, and there is none; but to the understanding one [with thinking ability] knowledge is an easy thing.” (Proverbs 14:6) Do they envy you and cover up their own insecurity by ridicule?
Flee From the Subtle Snare
“Trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” (Proverbs 29:25) In Bible times a snare could be a baited trap that would quickly snap closed on an unsuspecting animal that grabbed the bait. Do not let the bait of wanting to be accepted cause you to walk into a trap or snare and violate your own good standards. You can avoid the snare of the fear of men. Other youths have done it.
For example, Debbie had been a follower of the crowd for some time. When she was eighteen she engaged in wild, unrestrained conduct, including heavy drinking and drug abuse. But then Debbie began a serious study of the Bible with the help of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She began to learn to trust in Jehovah by developing a relationship with him. What she learned affected her thinking.
“I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to do the same things as that little group of kids,” said Debbie. This eighteen-year-old told her peer group: “You go your way and I’ll go mine. If you want my friendship you will have to respect the same standards I do. I’m sorry but I just don’t care what you think. This is what I’m going to do.”
She found that some in the group began to respect her even more, especially one young girl who inquired about Debbie’s religious convictions and even came to her for advice. “Even though not all responded,” said Debbie, “I sure liked myself better after I made my decision.”
What about you? Would you find that your self-esteem would improve by your developing thinking ability and firmly resisting the fear of men? Why not ask one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for help?
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Being attracted by the bait of wanting to be accepted, you can walk into a trap and violate your own good standards
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As a bird escapes from a trap, so you can avoid being ensnared by fear of men