Young Ones—Resist Peer Pressure
“Let your utterance be . . . seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—COL. 4:6.
1, 2. How do many youths feel about standing out as different, and why?
UNDOUBTEDLY, not only have you heard the phrase “peer pressure” but you have also come to know what it is by personal experience. At one time or another, perhaps someone has urged you to do something that you know is wrong. How do you feel when that happens? “Sometimes I wish I could just disappear,” says 14-year-old Christopher, “or else be like the rest of my schoolmates so I wouldn’t have to stand out as different.”
2 Do your peers exert a powerful influence on you? If so, why? Could it be that you want them to accept you? In itself, that desire is not wrong. In fact, adults want to be accepted by their peers too. No one—young or old—savors the bitter taste of rejection. Realistically, though, standing up for what is right will not always win praise from others. Even Jesus had to deal with that reality. Still, Jesus always did the right thing. While some followed him and became his disciples, others despised the Son of God and “held him as of no account.”—Isa. 53:3.
The Pressure to Conform—How Powerful?
3. Why is it a mistake to conform to your peers’ standards?
3 At times, you might be tempted to conform to your peers’ standards just to avoid their disapproval. That would be a mistake. Christians should not “be babes, tossed about as by waves.” (Eph. 4:14) Little children may easily be swayed by others. As a youth, however, you are on the road to adulthood. Hence, if you believe that Jehovah’s standards are for your good, you owe it to yourself to live by your convictions. (Deut. 10:12, 13) To do otherwise would be to give up control of your life. The fact is, when you yield to pressure from others, you become little more than their puppet.—Read 2 Peter 2:19.
4, 5. (a) How did Aaron succumb to pressure, and what lessons can you learn from this? (b) What methods might your peers use to try to pressure you?
4 On one occasion, Moses’ brother, Aaron, succumbed to peer pressure. When the Israelites urged him to make a god for them, he did so. Aaron was not a weakling. Previously, he stood with Moses when they confronted Pharaoh, the most powerful man in Egypt. Aaron then spoke boldly, declaring God’s message to him. But when fellow Israelites put pressure on him, Aaron caved in. What power peer pressure can exert! Aaron found it easier to stand up to the king of Egypt than to stand up to his peers.—Ex. 7:1, 2; 32:1-4.
5 As the example of Aaron shows, peer pressure is not limited to those who are young, nor is it a problem just for those who are inclined toward badness. Peer pressure can affect even those who sincerely want to do what is right, including you. Your peers may try to coerce you into wrongdoing by means of a dare, an accusation, or a taunt. Whatever form it takes, peer pressure is difficult to face. Resisting it successfully starts with developing confidence in what you believe.
“Keep Proving What You Yourselves Are”
6, 7. (a) Why is conviction in your beliefs important, and how can you develop it? (b) What questions can you ask yourself to strengthen your conviction?
6 To handle peer pressure, you first have to be convinced that your beliefs and standards are right. (Read 2 Corinthians 13:5.) Conviction will help you to be bold, although you may be timid by nature. (2 Tim. 1:7, 8) But even if a person is normally bold, it may be quite difficult for him to stand up for something that he only halfheartedly believes in. So why not prove to yourself that what you have been taught from the Bible is indeed the truth? Start with the basics. For example, you believe in God and you have heard others express why they have faith in his existence. Well, then, ask yourself, ‘What convinces me that God exists?’ The purpose of that question is not to arouse skepticism but to strengthen your faith. In a similar vein, ask yourself, ‘How do I know that the Scriptures are inspired of God?’ (2 Tim. 3:16) ‘Why am I convinced that these are “the last days”?’ (2 Tim. 3:1-5) ‘What makes me believe that Jehovah’s standards are for my good?’—Isa. 48:17, 18.
7 You might hesitate to ask yourself such questions, fearing that you will not have the answers. That, though, would be like hesitating to look at the fuel gauge on the dashboard of your car, fearing that the needle is pointing to “Empty”! If there is no fuel in the tank, you need to find out so that you can do something about it. Similarly, it is best for you to address any lack of conviction you may detect in yourself.—Acts 17:11.
8. Explain how you might strengthen your confidence in the wisdom of God’s command to abstain from fornication.
8 Consider an example. The Bible urges you to “flee from fornication.” Ask yourself, ‘Why is that a wise command?’ Think of all the reasons why your peers engage in such conduct. Reflect also on various reasons why the person who practices fornication “is sinning against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18) Now analyze the reasons, and ask yourself: ‘Which is the best course to follow? Is it really worth it to engage in sexual misconduct?’ Give the matter even further thought, asking yourself, ‘How would I feel if I gave in to sexual immorality?’ You might gain the immediate approval of some peers, but how would you feel later on when you are with your parents or fellow Christians at the Kingdom Hall? What would your feelings be when you tried to pray to God? Would you really be willing to sacrifice a clean standing with God just to please your classmates?
9, 10. How will confidence in your beliefs enable you to be more confident when you are with your peers?
9 If you are an adolescent, you are at a time of life in which your “power of reason” is developing as never before. (Read Romans 12:1, 2.) Use this period to give serious thought to what being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses means to you personally. Such meditation will help you to build confidence in your beliefs. Then, when you are faced with peer pressure, you will be able to reply promptly and with confidence. You will feel as does one young Christian sister, who states: “When I take a stand, all I’m doing is letting others know who I am. This is not just ‘some religion.’ It is the core of my thinking, goals, morals, and existence.”
10 Yes, it takes effort to remain firm for what you know is right. (Luke 13:24) And you may wonder if it is worth it. But remember this: If you appear apologetic or ashamed of your stand, others will sense that, and they may well add even more pressure. If you speak with conviction, however, you may be surprised how quickly your peers will back off.—Compare Luke 4:12, 13.
‘Meditate so as to Answer’
11. Of what benefit is it to prepare for peer pressure?
11 Another important step in resisting peer pressure is preparation. (Read Proverbs 15:28.) Being prepared means thinking in advance about what situations are likely to arise. Sometimes a little forethought can help you to prevent a big confrontation. For example, suppose you see a group of your schoolmates up ahead and they are smoking. How likely is it that they will offer you a cigarette? Anticipating a problem, what can you do? Proverbs 22:3 states: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” By taking a different route, you may be able to avoid the encounter altogether. That is not a matter of being fearful; it is the course of wisdom.
12. How might you diffuse a pressure-charged situation?
12 What if you must face a situation head-on? Suppose a peer asks in disbelief, “Are you still a virgin?” The key is to follow the admonition of Colossians 4:6: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” As this scripture indicates, how you go about addressing the challenge will depend on the circumstances. You probably do not need to launch into a Bible lecture. Perhaps a firm, simple answer will suffice. For example, in reply to the question about being a virgin, you might simply say, “Yes I am,” or, “That’s really a personal matter.”
13. What part can discernment play in answering a taunt from a peer?
13 Jesus often gave a brief reply when little good would have been accomplished by saying more. In fact, when he was questioned by Herod, Jesus said nothing at all. (Luke 23:8, 9) Silence is often a good way to handle impertinent questions. (Prov. 26:4; Eccl. 3:1, 7) On the other hand, you may detect a measure of sincerity in someone who is puzzled by your course—regarding, say sexual morality—even if that one initially spoke abusively of you. (1 Pet. 4:4) In that case, a more thorough explanation of your Bible-based stand may be in order. If it is, do not hold back out of fear. Always be “ready to make a defense.”—1 Pet. 3:15.
14. How might you tactfully return peer pressure in some situations?
14 In some situations, you may be able to return the pressure. However, you must try to do this tactfully. For instance, if a schoolmate dares you to accept a cigarette from him, you could say, “No thanks” and then add, “I thought you were too smart to smoke!” Do you see how the pressure is returned? Rather than your having to explain why you do not smoke, your peer is compelled to think about why he does.*
15. When is it appropriate to walk away from peers who try to pressure you, and why?
15 What if despite your efforts, the pressure persists? In that case, it is best just to walk away. The longer you stay, the greater the chance that you will compromise in some way. Therefore, leave the scene. You can do so without feeling defeated. After all, you took control of the situation. You did not become a puppet of your peers, and you made Jehovah’s heart rejoice.—Prov. 27:11.
Have ‘Plans That Make for Advantage’
16. How might pressure come from some who claim to be Christians?
16 At times, pressure to engage in unwholesome activity may come from other youths who claim to be servants of Jehovah. For example, what if you arrive at a gathering arranged by such a person and discover that there is no adult supervision? Or what if a youth claiming to be a Christian brings alcohol to a gathering and you and others present are not of legal age to drink? A number of situations may arise in which you will need to follow your Bible-trained conscience. One teenage Christian relates: “My sister and I walked out of a movie that contained a lot of swearing. Others in the group decided to stay. Our parents praised us for what we did. However, the others in the group were angry because we made them look bad.”
17. When attending a gathering, what practical measure can you take to abide by God’s standards?
17 As the foregoing experience shows, following your Bible-trained conscience may put you in an awkward position. But stay true to what you believe to be the right course. Be prepared. If you are going to a gathering, have an exit plan in case things are not as you expected them to be. Some youths have an agreement with their parents that a simple phone call is all that will be needed to get an early ride home. (Ps. 26:4, 5) Such ‘plans make for advantage.’—Prov. 21:5.
‘Rejoice in Your Youth’
18, 19. (a) Why can you be sure that Jehovah wants you to be happy? (b) How does God feel about those who resist peer pressure?
18 Jehovah created you with the capacity for enjoying life, and he wants you to be happy. (Read Ecclesiastes 11:9.) Remember that what many of your peers experience is only “the temporary enjoyment of sin.” (Heb. 11:25) The true God wants you to have something far beyond that. He wants you to be happy forever. Hence, when you face temptation to do something that you know is bad in God’s eyes, remember that in the long run, what Jehovah asks of you is always in your best interests.
19 As a youth, you need to realize that even if you were to gain the approval of your peers, years from now most of them likely will not even remember your name. In contrast, when you resist peer pressure, Jehovah takes note of it, and he will never forget you or your faithfulness. He will “open to you . . . the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.” (Mal. 3:10) Moreover, he generously supplies his holy spirit to make up for any lack you may now have. Yes, Jehovah can help you to resist pressure from your peers!
See the chart entitled “Peer-Pressure Planner” in the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, pages 132 and 133.
Do You Recall?
• What power can peer pressure exert?
• What part does conviction play in resisting peer pressure?
• How can you prepare to face peer pressure?
• How do you know that Jehovah values your faithfulness?
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Why did Aaron consent to making the golden calf?
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Be prepared—decide in advance what you will say