How to cope with peer pressure
Why staying faithful to Christ may mean saying no to your friends.
Have you had an experience like Jamie's?
When Jamie started high school, she found a really great group of friends to hang out with at lunch.
But in Year 8, things started getting hard. Jamie’s school friends started hanging out on the weekends at the shops. One day, Jamie saw her best friend Emma slip a necklace from Target into her pocket, and run giggling out of the store without paying.
Another weekend, Jamie, Emma and two other friends were hanging out and Emma suggested they see a movie rated for 15+. The girls were all only 13, but Emma called her sister to come and buy the tickets. Jamie followed her friends into the movie with her head hung. She could hardly watch the screen.
Jamie hoped things with her friends would get easier, but instead they got worse. As they got older, sneaking into movies turned into sneaking out of home at night to attend wild parties.
Every time Jamie’s friends did something bad, they urged Jamie to join them. And Jamie didn’t know how to say no. These were her friends, right? But every time she snuck out at night, or drank alcohol at a party, Jamie felt just as ashamed as she’d felt when she’d snuck into that first 15+ movie.
Jamie’s school friends also wanted her to stop going to her youth group. They told her it was lame and childish, and Jamie felt embarrassed getting in the car when her dad drove her to church on a Friday. She soon stopped going to youth group. She wasn’t even sure she was a Christian any more. She’d done so many bad things - surely God wouldn’t want her.
What is peer pressure?
Jamie experienced peer pressure - her friends encouraging her to do things that were wrong, or that made her feel really uncomfortable. If she didn’t do what her friends wanted, Jamie was afraid that they wouldn’t like her any more.
Peer pressure is really hard. We want our friends to like us and think well of us, so it’s hard to say no when they want us to do things, even if those things are wrong!
The Bible has some important points that are helpful if you’re facing peer pressure. Here are three important things to remember if you’re a young Christian facing peer pressure:
1. You are called to stand out
If you’re a Christian, you’ve been saved by the death of Jesus Christ. So, God wants you to honour him by living a life that pleases him. And that includes following God first, not your friends. Romans 12:2 says, "do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
As we grow as Christians, we’re meant to look less and less like our worldly friends, and more and more like Jesus. This way, we’ll stand out and when people look at us, they’ll be able to see God’s greatness.
2. You aren’t alone
There are plenty of great ways to get help if you’re struggling with your friends. You could ask a parent or trusted adult for advice. You can also visit ReachOut if you’re in Australia or the USA, or ChildLine if you’re in the UK.
Also, don’t forget that Jesus suffered from pressure and temptation too! When Jesus was on earth, many people (even the devil!) tried to get him to do wrong things that weren’t a part of God’s plan. Hebrews 2:18 says that "because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted". When you’re tempted to give into peer pressure, Jesus knows how you feel. But he stood firm, and with his help, you can be strengthened to resist pressure too.
3. You are forgiven
If, like Jamie, you regret having given into peer pressure, don’t forget that through Jesus all our sins are forgiven.
1 John 1:9 says If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If you’ve done the wrong thing, pray to God to say sorry and ask for his help to stand firm in the future. It’s also a good idea to tell a trusted adult what you’ve been struggling with, and to get some guidance to help you move forward.
Peer pressure is really tough, but don’t forget that in all parts of life, God is there for you.