The Power of Peer Pressure
by Conrad Mbewe
Most of us know that peer pressure is one of the treacherous icebergs that young people must avoid in the high seas of life in order to reach their desired haven safely. Those who fail to do so often end up making shipwreck of their lives.
Hence, it is not surprising that in the very first chapter of Proverbs, the wise man Solomon addresses this phenomenon. He does not use the phrase “peer pressure,” but clearly that is what he has in mind.
“My son,” Solomon writes, “if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us … let us ambush the innocent without reason … we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder… .’ My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths” (Prov. 1:10–15).
The power of peer pressure lies in the fact that God has made us social creatures. We want to belong; we want to be identified with our peers. We do not want to be seen as odd. Hence, the phrases come with us and let us, with their sense of inclusiveness, are very powerful.
Another reason why peer pressure ruins so many lives is because it shows us the worm but hides the hook. We see the immediate, mouth-watering results of pleasurable self-indulgence, but we fail to see its long-term results. Filling our lives with precious goods is what dreams are made of.
This pressure blackmails us so that we end up doing things without reasoning. “Let us ambush the innocent without reason,” your peers say. It is not that they do not give an incentive or reason; rather, the unreasonableness lies in the failure to process the morality and the ultimate consequences of the activity.
Thus, for instance, many get sucked into premarital and extramarital sex because “it is cool and everyone is doing it.” The noise from peers makes us shut our ears to the voice that calls this an immoral lifestyle. We fail to see the many people who have taken that route and have suffered as a result.
Although peer pressure first rears its ugly head in our lives when we enter adolescence, it is wrong to think that it ends with that period of our lives. We all experience it until we die. Even those of us who are church pastors experience peer pressure, especially in how we define success in ministry.
So, what should we do in order to resist peer pressure? Listen to the wise man, Solomon, again. We should resolve to fear God above all and to maintain the values we were taught by our godly parents (Prov. 1:7–9), even at the cost of becoming social outcasts. Remember the words of the hymn writer Norman Macleod:
Some will hate thee, some will love
Some will flatter, some will slight; Cease from man, and look above thee:
Trust in God and do the right.