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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Dragon Quest”

If you were ever a kid growing up in any sort of social gathering, whether it be a public school, a private school, a playground, or a local hangout, you know all about peer pressure.

Humans are social creatures. Like Spike in this episode, we seek to identify with others in our society who we view as like us. We look for groups that appear secure or friendly or share our interests, and then we seek ways to join in with them. Children have a harder time than most with this process. They are still learning how to interact social with others, and they are also at that time of their lives when, like Spike, they aren’t yet certain of their own identity or secure in their own choices and personality. It is at these times that a child is often “molded” into a new individual by the choices they make and the peers they associate with in their quest to “belong”. However, even adults can experience these sensations; especially ones that are insecure, never really belonged to a group, never really established their own identity, or among certain circles.

And, like Spike experienced, in the quest to become “part of the gang”, these individuals are often pushed out of their comfort zones by their peers and are encouraged and pressured to do things they normally would not do on their own. This is what we term “peer pressure”; the influence of a small group on a newcomer to get the individual to conform to their same behavior.

Peer pressure can be direct or indirect. The cliche from after-school specials is all the “cool kids” dressed in black leather and sideways ball caps bringing in Little Johnny into their midst and passing him a cigarette with all of them telling him to smoke it or he won’t be “cool”. This would be a direct example. But, in reality, the more frequent type of peer pressure comes either implicitly or from within. If someone starts wanting to associate with a group or admires them, and sees everyone in the group smokes and he or she doesn’t, then he or she may want to start smoking in a better effort to be part of the group. From my own experience, years back I was afraid to go on roller coasters. I would always stand to one side when I went with my family to the local amusement park and wait for them to be done. Then one day I went with a group of friends. They announced they were getting on and I planned to stand aside. A few encouraged me but didn’t pressure me. However, they started to talk about how much they enjoyed the experience. They got into a conversation I liked and they all got together in line to continue it, while I was left out because I was waiting to one side all alone, with the sensation of being “out” of the group. So I went with them and on the ride, even though I was terrified, simply to be with my peers. What this illustrates is that simply the act of trying to be in a group or make friends with a group necessitates a certain level of implicit peer pressure.

Traditionally, peer pressure is seen as a bad thing. As I mentioned before, there are countless after-school specials showing peers pressuring young and innocent kids into smoking, taking drugs, committing petty vandalism or theft, etc. But what I hope the above example also illustrates is that it’s not necessarily bad. Because of my peers, I ended up liking roller coasters and having much more fun at the park, and they got me to get on the ride when my parents couldn’t. In that sense, peer pressure led me to try new things and grow as a person beyond my comfort zone. The same thing can happen if you join, for example, a Christian group that decides to help volunteer with disaster relief or do missionary work. An individual who normally would be too uncomfortable or distracted to do such things might rethink that decision when they see all of their peers doing it. In that case, peer pressure leads to good results and behaviors.

The Bible makes a great deal of warnings against bad company, likely from the perspective of how peer pressure stems from it to change us for the worse. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33) “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22:24-25) “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20) As a result, one might get the impression that peer pressure is a bad thing. However, there are plenty of examples in the Bible about good peer pressure coming from the Church community as well. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27) “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 42-47).

What seems to be the true matter to be on guard against is not peer pressure itself, but rather on guard against what company we keep. Whoever we choose to be our companions or to associate with will end up influencing which way we act: whether for good or for evil. Therefore we should chose carefully who we seek to associate with, just as Spike did in the end.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for creating a world filled with all kinds of people who are each fearfully and wonderfully made, and for the gift of friends, family, and companions as close as family. Please help me to remember the proverb ‘Bad company ruins good morals’ when I decide who to associate with and what groups I wish to belong to. May all the friends I choose to be with help me to live a better life for you and your purpose. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”