The reality is that negative peer pressure is a spiritual battle all of us fight constantly, regardless of our age. Peer pressure is always there. It’s a fact of life in a sinful and fallen world.
Our kids may know what is right and try with all their effort to do what is right, but still find themselves giving in. The apostle Paul admitted his personal struggle with these sinful inclinations: “My own behavior baffles me. For I find myself doing what I really loathe but not doing what I really want to do. . . . I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. . . . It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the prison of this mortal body?” (Romans 7:15, 18, 24, Phillips).
No doubt Paul would include in this struggle the moral dilemma between deciding to do what everyone else is doing and deciding to do what God says is good, true, right and honorable.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus describes the spiritual struggle of choosing who or what we will follow in life. He calls us to make the right choice as we stand at a fork in the road. On one side sits a wide gate that opens onto a broad road. Those who look through the gate will see that the path beyond is wide and well-worn from the number of people who have gone down it. In fact, many can be seen walking that way. But this is the path that leads to death.
On the other side is a narrow gate that opens onto a small trail. Maybe we see nobody going down that path, but Jesus commands his listeners to take this latter path. Even though very few travel it, he says it is the path that leads to life.
Even though Jesus’ words were intended to communicate truths about eternal life, eternal death, and what it means to follow Him, they also say something about the battle with negative peer pressure. In a sense, our kids find themselves standing at a similar fork in the road. Some of them stand there several times a day, facing the dilemma of choosing to walk the way of what is right or traveling in the same direction everyone else is going. It is the dilemma between standing alone as a follower of Christ and going with the flow.
While we need to recognize that while our kids will make many mistakes and poor choices – just like us! – we must at the same time point them in the direction of Paul’s answer to our tendency to give in to our sinful nature. Paul ends the description of his personal struggle with sin on a victorious note. “I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25, Phillips).
Take the time to address the reality and dynamics of peer pressure with the children and teens you know and love. Teach them the truth of these life-giving words from Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”