How can young people deal with peer pressure?


Peer pressure is an incredibly challenging thing that almost all young people will experience at one time or another in their lives—especially as young Christians or those who are on their way toward becoming true Christians. Even adults have to face peer pressure. The problem with peer pressure is that people want to fit in. They want others to like them and are at times willing to change their conviction in order to gain the approval of those around them. 

The Bible makes very good points about peer pressure and shows good examples of how to deal with these pressures.

It takes a solid understanding of what one believes, and to act toward that understanding to deal with and counter peer pressure. It should be noted that not all peer pressure is bad, and it can be useful to encounter peer pressure of both types to learn how to deal with each kind. 

Peer pressure really starts for early teens when they are trying to understand the world more and as they start to experience and gain more independence from their parents. And it continues through life to varying degrees. 

Peer pressure in and of itself is not a bad thing. Peer pressure can be positive or negative. There is a coach for teens whom I follow on Instagram and he is constantly posting that one of the most crucial things for teens is to choose their friend group – because it has a direct impact on the types of things each individual or the group are going to be influenced to do. 

Bad peer pressure can come about because of the type of people one associates with. 

Two quotes come to mind in this regard. 

  • “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  Booker T. Washington
  • And a very famous one, with the origin unknown, is: “You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”

When it comes to choosing with whom we make friends, it is essential to look at the qualities they bring to the table. Good people challenge one to also do and be good. A bad friendship causes one to veer off into areas that are not good. 

Here is a quick list of Scriptures that talk about good friendships and what they provide:

“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).

“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 27:12)

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful… Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:6, 9).

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The Bible also gives us advice on the types of “friends” whom we should avoid so we don’t have to deal with bad peer pressure:

“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

“A violent man entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good” (Proverbs 16:29).

“Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).

“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalms 1:1).

“I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked” (Psalm 26:4-5).

When considering with whom to make friends, we should realize that there may be times when we will have to stand up to them in order to keep doing what is right. It may come to the point where we have to distance or disassociate from people whom we once called friends because we choose to walk a different path. It can be challenging and hard to walk away from a group of friends; we may be called names and made fun of or worse, people can try and defame us or cause problems for us. 

Daniel and his friends, when they were young, were asked to eat what appears to have included unclean food. They decided not to do this as they were following their conviction. They had to ask the people over them to give them a trial – they would not eat the unclean food while everyone else did. At the end of the trial, they were found to be healthier than everyone else. Daniel 1:8-16 tells this story. Daniel “set his heart” not to eat the food. Daniel understands the situation, and decides, in his heart, based upon his knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and chooses to do the right thing. Once set, Daniel would not be moved. Not to give in to bad peer pressure shows the proper type of attitude.

Later on in the book of Daniel, we again see bad peer pressure at play. This time, Daniel’s friends were being “snitched” upon by people who should have been their peers. It involved the king of Babylon and the desire of the king to be worshiped by all people. Daniel’s three friends knew better and chose not to, because they knew they should only worship God, obeying the first commandment. The story shows that they had the faith to stand up for what they believed in, even if it would have resulted in their death. This type of faith was a result of consistent actions throughout their lives. 

Further on in the book of Daniel, in chapter 6, we find when Daniel is praying that people take notice and are jealous. They attempt to trap Daniel, again using the King’s power. Yet Daniel never strays from God, never stops doing what he knows to be right, and never gives in to bad peer pressure. And in return, God powerfully protects him from the lions in the den. 

These three stories iterate the power of bad peer pressure and how evil can be used against God’s people – including young people. More importantly, it shows that God is the One in control and knows the situations that we face. When we include Him in our ways and show Him that we are willing to stand up for what is right, instead of bowing to the pressures of doing what others think is right or cool, He will provide the way of escape. He will give us the power and the strength we need. 

Taking this one step further, we could even pray to God and ask Him to provide friendships for us that are good and helpful. Knowing that we can come to God and ask Him in faith for things such as this is powerful and should be reassuring for us. 

Good peer pressure is having an influence on people’s lives. As Christians, we are told that we are to be the “lights” of the world (Matthew 5:14-16)—meaning, we are to be the ones standing out. Even children, teens and young adults can be lights. This can be very hard for young (and old) people who want to fit in with their peers. Peers are oftentimes thought of as friend groups, but peers can actually be anyone with a similar status, such as age groups or some attribute that is shared. Good pressure is in finding groups where we are drawn to accomplish useful things such as doing well in school, encouraging others, work ethic, being kind to people, choosing not to follow other’s wrong examples, having good clean fun, enjoying other’s company, or finding and keeping up with interesting hobbies. People’s behavior is always influencing others. If one can act with integrity and confidence in good ways, others will take notice and follow. 

Philippians 4:8 tells us: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.”

Bad peer pressure isn’t hard to find. It is easy to fall into the traps of bad peer pressure. It will always be harder to swim against the current of popular culture and maintain that which is good. 

Bad peer pressure can involve many things such as using bad language, taking God’s Name in vain, including expressions such as “My God,” “My Gosh,” “Gee,” “O my Lord,” “My goodness,” cursing and swearing, lying, cheating, calling people names, bullying, harassing, using social media in mean and cruel ways, engaging in inappropriate and wrong activities, smoking, taking drugs, sex or sexting, encouraging others to do wrong things. 

When we engage in bad types of peer pressure, we lose confidence and respect for ourselves, and others can come to lose respect for us as well. God especially will be definitely saddened. When such activities are happening, it is often the case that it can feel scary and intimidating to say no when a wrong action has taken place and continues. 

It is important to realize that one should not engage in them in the first place. If the courage to say no is there at the outset, it will make the future easier. If you find yourself in the place where you are compromising with what you know to be right, then there are a few things to immediately do. Pray – pray to God for forgiveness as He is the only One with the power to forgive fully. Then ask God for the courage to stop and for help to figure out how to get out of the situation. God is always there and wants to help when you include Him. Next, talking to parents or a minister about your situation will help you to see the broader picture. When sin takes hold of you, it can be hard to see a way out, and it can narrow your field of view. The Bible refers to sin as a passing pleasure (Hebrews 11:25). Yes, sin can feel good! But the end is always misery and death, which may perhaps be hard to picture in the moment! 

Peer pressure will be something all young people will deal with. We cannot state strongly enough that God really cares. He knows what we go through. He observes. When we choose to include Him in our lives, actions and challenges, then we can expect help and make better choices and decisions. God is always just a prayer away! Start practicing and see what happens. See how He will help you. The only way to really know is to try and see how it will work out. 

Peer pressure will be a part of almost everyone’s life at some point in time. Understanding what it is should help us to see that a lot of it is about people being insecure and a desire for acceptance from all involved. But we don’t have to fit in with this world, and we are actually told that we shouldn’t fit in with it. Romans 12:2 tells us:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

If people intimidate you, they are trying to manipulate you! It is very important that you make your own decisions and be the type of person to follow what God says, realizing that everything that He says is for our benefit and well-being. We must settle it in our hearts that we will not give in to peer pressure, no matter what we are facing. If we allow others to decide what we do and how we will behave, we lose our sovereignty. We have the right to our own thoughts. We have the right to choose not to follow what everyone else is doing. If we give that away, it plays right into Satan’s hands, with him seeking how we can fail. When we don’t stand up for what is right, we are in essence standing with those who are doing wrong, as it says in Romans 1:32 “…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”  The previous verses also show in part what is going on in this world and how, with Satan’s influence growing stronger, people are given over to sin and will attempt to get us to follow suit. 

We will be able to overcome bad peer pressure when we realize it for what it is. Think carefully about the future and realize that many friends in early life will only be there for a brief time, while sometimes it can be a lifelong relationship. What really matters is good friendships and a strong relationship with those who truly love and care for your well-being—God, family and true and helpful friends. 

Lead Writer: Kalon Mitchell

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