Scripture Reading: Scripture Reading:
by Frank Schaefer
There is a saying that
goes like this: “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are!”
and “a person is known by the company they keep!”
When prisoners are released early on good behavior, they go on parole and during
that time, they are forbidden from having any relations with ex-cons or any
known criminals. If they are caught in the company of such people, they will go
back to jail. Parole officers know from experience that if a parole surrounds
him or herself with bad people, he or she is prone to getting in trouble with
the law all over again.
In other words, when it comes to relationships, our way of thinking, even our
self-esteem and our decisions, we are affected and greatly influenced — whether
we like it or not — by those closest to us. You may say: “Wait a minute, I
control myself and I’m not being influenced very easily.” Well, research has
shown that we are more affected by our environment than we think.
Relevance: Living in a Changing World
This is especially true for times when we experience life changes. Take the
American college environment for instance:
Suddenly, you find yourself in a more independent role. You must grow up
overnight. Nobody to clean up after you, got to do your own laundry, got to find
a job, new friends, and keep up with new and harder academic challenges at the
same time. You will feel loneliness and you’ll ask yourself: “How do I fit in
here?” Who’s going to be a friend, a real friend, who’s going to support me?”
Needless to say that the vulnerability to negative peer pressure is extremely
high at this point in our student’s lives. All these pressures, the loneliness,
changes and challenges can cause you to be desperate to fit in. You may start
hanging out with people you would have never hung out with before, just because
they’re in your dorm or in your classes. You never vetted those people, you
never really chose these people to be your friends, but because of these
pressures you start structuring your life around these people and more often
than not, they get you into trouble. And after you wake up to the trouble you’re
in, you have an identity crisis on your hand in addition to all the other
pressures. No wonder that drug addiction, burnouts, dropouts and even suicide
rates are high on our college campuses.
Psalm 1: Avoid Peer Pressure – Know who you are
This ancient Hebrew writing from Psalm 1 has some wisdom to share in this
discussion. It’s saying that the most important thing in life is knowing who we
are as persons. We have to find ourselves, our values, our vision first. We need
to be like a tree firmly planted by the waters and then, and only then, can we
avoid peer pressure.
This quest to find ourselves, to know who we are, what we believe in, what we
value in life and where we see ourselves going is everything! As we grow up in
our homes of origin, we get to a point of independence. We realize that we are
our own persons, apart from our family members. We may value a lot of our
upbringing and the things we learned, but we can turn out quite different from
our parents or siblings. If I look at my own life, I have to say, I am quite
different from my parents. I hold different beliefs, values, convictions and
goals. This is true for political, religious, and of course, cultural values.
Psalm 1: Think for yourself, get a vision and connect with God
That leads me to another gem that Psalm 1 has to offer: If you want to become
this person that is like a tree planted firmly by the waters, you got to think
for yourself. You got to read the teachings about God and the world, you’ve got
to sort through the religious and philosophical writings for yourself in order
to get there. Don’t take anybody’s word for it, not even your parents’ word. Get
your own vision of life, and then own that vision. And hopefully, in this
process you get to know what you believe in your heart. This will help you
connect with God in a positive way—as a friend.
In light of Psalm 1, how do we avoid peer pressure?
Figure out your vision. Sometimes as you do, it means that you may become a
loner, it means that you go through life by yourself. But is that so bad? Where
did we get this idea that we have to have friends no matter what? No matter what
the cost? I tell you right now,
• it’s better to have no friends than to have bad friends.
• You can be your own best friend
• and you can reach out to God. God is always available to be our bestie.
So, let’s beware of the dangers and the potential pitfalls, and let’s choose our
friends wisely. Our lives can literally depend on those choices we make.
You must surround yourself with positive, supportive people who want you to
succeed in a good way, not in stupid ways…
• Getting wasted,
• having casual sex,
• passing classes on minimum effort or by cheating on tests,
• using or taking advantage of people
those things do not count as success by any standard!
You need to surround yourself with friends that don’t want to bring you down to
their messed up existence; you need friends that are solid, who share your
values and goals, friends that support you to do good and help you stay away
from things that can mess you up and cause you to struggle.
Start changing your life today….
1. Find yourself, find the friend inside you.
2. Discover that God’s is your friend.
3. Find good friends that love, support you and share many of your values.
4. Be the friend to others that you’re looking for yourself and improve that
chance that you will find those friends.