Young People Ask . . .
Why Am I Drawn to the Wrong People?
“I knew that I shouldn’t get too familiar with him, but it was something that I allowed. I couldn’t believe that a man would want to spend time with me.”—Nancy.*
“I would go to the skating rink by myself, and before long I started associating regularly with the ‘friends’ I made there. Pretty soon, I was living an immoral lifestyle.”—Dan.
BOTH Nancy and Dan had a strong spiritual start in life. Nancy was raised in a God-fearing family and began sharing her faith with others at nine years of age. Dan entered the full-time ministry as a teenager. Yet, both had serious setbacks in their spiritual life. Why? They associated with the wrong people.
Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly drawn to someone whom you knew, deep down, to be a bad influence on you? The individual might have been a classmate with whom you shared common interests—or even someone of the opposite sex to whom you felt romantically attracted.
Likely you called to mind the Bible’s counsel: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) But are all people who do not worship Jehovah bad association? What if they have some likable, even admirable, qualities? Then, too, what of a person who is a fellow believer yet is setting a poor spiritual example? Before answering these questions, let us consider how and why such attractions may occur.
What Is Behind the Attraction?
Since all humans are made in God’s image, it can be expected that some who do not know Jehovah will manifest fine qualities. As a result, you may find some people to be respectable, even likable, although they do not worship the true God. Should you completely shun such ones simply because they are not acquainted with Bible truths? By no means. When the Bible counsels us to “work what is good toward all,” that includes those who do not share your Christian beliefs. (Galatians 6:10) So being careful about choosing your close associates does not mean that you should act as if you were superior to others. (Proverbs 8:13; Galatians 6:3) Such conduct would reflect poorly on your Christian beliefs.
Some Christian youths, however, have gone further than being pleasant; they have formed close bonds with individuals who have little or no interest in spiritual things. Dan, mentioned earlier, had become a very good roller skater. The people he began to associate with regularly at the local rink were not Christians. Eventually, Dan joined his new “friends” in engaging in immoral conduct and experimenting with drugs. Realizing that his lifestyle was no longer compatible with Christianity, Dan abandoned his ministry and stopped attending congregation meetings. It was several years before he gathered the strength to make the necessary changes to return to true worship.
Melanie was drawn to a fellow believer who was not faring well spiritually. “I was told she needed some encouragement, so I started to associate with her,” Melanie explained. Of course, the Bible encourages Christians to “support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) But Melanie began joining her new friend at bars, where further associations led her into reproachful conduct.
The Role of Family
Family dynamics can be a factor in your forming attractions. Michelle wondered why she always seemed to be attracted to boys who were emotionally distant and uncaring. She concluded that they reminded her of her father, to whom she never felt close and who never seemed to have time for her. She believes that she had become so accustomed to seeking approval and attention from an unavailable man that she unwittingly felt drawn to such relationships.
By contrast, a young person raised by Christian parents may be curious about how others live, feeling that his or her parents have been overly protective. Whether that is the case or not, is trying to compensate by associating with ‘friends of the world’ the answer? (James 4:4) Consider what happened to Bill.
Although from an early age he was taught the Scriptures by his mother, Bill chose not to dedicate his life to Jehovah, feeling that doing so would restrict his freedom. Wanting to find out for himself what life was like away from true Christianity, he began associating with a gang that led him into a life of drugs, violence, and crime. As a result of a high-speed chase with the police in pursuit, he was injured and spent months in a coma. The doctors felt it likely that he would not live. Happily, Bill recovered. But he is blind and disabled. He learned from hard experience and is now a dedicated Christian. But Bill has also come to realize that learning the hard way can have lifelong consequences.
Sometimes the entertainment media influence a youth’s ideas about what an ideal friend is. For instance, it is not uncommon for books, television programs, movies, and music videos to depict a hero who appears harsh or jaded at first but who is later revealed to have more compassionate qualities at heart. The impression given is that people who appear callous and self-centered are, in fact, likely to be sensitive and caring. Further, the idea may be conveyed that a good friend, often one of the opposite sex, is just what is needed to bring these finer qualities to the surface. Granted, the concept sells stories. How often, though, do you think this romantic fantasy proves true in real life? Sadly, some youths have fallen for such unwholesome fantasies and befriended—even married—a selfish, violent, person and then waited in vain for the “transformation” into a sensitive soul.
Consider one more reason why some become attracted to the wrong people: They consider themselves undesirable and therefore settle for almost anyone who seems attracted to them. Nancy, mentioned previously, knew what the Bible says about marrying “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) Yet, she had always considered herself unattractive and was therefore flattered when a workmate who did not share her faith showed a romantic interest in her. She started going out with him and came perilously close to committing sexual immorality.
As the foregoing experiences show, there are numerous reasons why a young Christian may feel drawn to people who are a bad influence—and there seem to be just as many ways to rationalize forming close friendships with such ones. Still, friendships of that kind inescapably yield distressing, even disastrous, results. Why?
The Power of Friendship
The fact is, you become like your friends. In this way those with whom we spend our time exert great power and influence over us. Proverbs 13:20 shows that this power can be for good or for bad: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” Close friends, like two people riding in the same car, inevitably head in the same direction and arrive at the same destination. So ask yourself: ‘Does the road my friend is on lead where I want to go? Will it take me closer to my spiritual goals and aspirations?’
Granted, making an honest assessment can be difficult. Strong feelings may be involved. But are feelings alone a reliable guide in the selection of friends? You may have heard the oft repeated advice, “Follow your heart.” But Proverbs 28:26 states: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid.” Why? Because “the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jeremiah 17:9; Numbers 15:39) To be treacherous is to be disloyal or false or to be a double-crosser. Would you trust a person who is known as a deceiver and a traitor? Our figurative heart can be devious. Thus, a relationship is not necessarily healthy just because it feels right.
A far more reliable guide is God’s Word. Unlike your imperfect heart, Bible principles will never betray you or let you down. How can Bible principles help you determine whether someone is likely to prove to be a wholesome friend? And how can you avoid making a destructive choice in choosing a lifetime friend—a marriage mate? These questions will be considered in a future article.
Names have been changed.
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The media can influence our concept of an ideal friend