WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Imagine this scenario: As two of his schoolmates approach, Brian feels a knot in his stomach. Twice already this week, they’ve tried to get him to smoke. This will be their third attempt.
The first boy speaks:
“All alone again? Let me introduce you to a friend.”
He underscores the word “friend” with a wink as he takes something out of his pocket and extends his hand toward Brian.
Brian sees the cigarette between the boy’s thumb and forefinger. The knot in Brian’s stomach gets even tighter.
“Sorry,” Brian says. “I’ve already told you that I don’t . . .”
The second boy interrupts: “Don’t be such a coward!”
“I’m not!” Brian summons the courage to say.
The second boy places his arm around Brian’s shoulder. “Just take it,” he says softly.
The first boy moves the cigarette closer to Brian’s face and adds in a whisper: “We won’t tell anyone. No one will ever know.”
If you were Brian, how would you respond?
STOP AND THINK!
Have Brian’s peers really thought about what they are doing? Have they made their own decisions? Not likely. In general, they have yielded to the influence of others. They want to be accepted, so they allow others to shape what they do.
If you were confronted with the same situation, how could you choose a different path and resist peer pressure?
The Bible says: “The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself, but the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.”—Proverbs 22:3.
Often, you can see trouble in advance. For example, suppose you see a group of your schoolmates up ahead, and they’re smoking. By anticipating a problem, you’ll be ready to deal with it.
The Bible says: “Maintain a good conscience.”—1 Peter 3:16.
Ask yourself, ‘How will I feel in the long run if I go along with the crowd?’ True, you might temporarily avoid the disapproval of your peers. But how will you feel later? Are you willing to sacrifice your identity just to please your classmates?—Exodus 23:2.
The Bible says: “The wise one is cautious.”—Proverbs 14:16.
Sooner or later, we have to make a choice and live with the consequences. The Bible tells of men like Joseph, Job, and Jesus, who all made the right choice. It also tells of Cain, Esau, and Judas, who made bad choices. What will you do?
The Bible says: “Act with faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:3) If you’ve already thought about the consequences and made up your mind, stating your position can be surprisingly easy—and rewarding.
Don’t worry—you don’t have to give your peers a lecture. A simple but firm NO may suffice. Or to make your nonnegotiable stand clear, you could say:
“Count me out!”
“I don’t do that sort of thing!”
“Come on, you know me better than that!”
The key is to respond promptly and with conviction. If you do, you might be surprised at how quickly your peers will back off!
DEALING WITH RIDICULE
What if your peers mock you? What if they say, “What’s wrong—are you a coward?” Recognize this sort of taunt for what it is—crude peer pressure. How can you respond? You have at least two options.
You could absorb the taunt. (“You’re right, I am scared!” Then briefly state your reason.)
You could return the pressure. State your reason for refusing, and then appeal to your peers’ intellect. (“I thought you were too smart to smoke!”)
If your peers continue to taunt you, walk away! Remember, the longer you stay, the more intense the pressure will become. By leaving the scene, you show that you refuse to let others change who you are.
Realistically, you can’t hide from peer pressure. But you can decide what you want to do, state your position, and take control. In the end, the choice is yours!—Joshua 24:15.