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Just for Youth Rise Above Peer Pressure

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Just for Youth Rise Above Peer Pressure

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Today's teenagers live in a far more complex and demanding society than anything many of us older adults have experienced. We generally did not face pressure to use drugs, but nowadays a dizzying array of illegal substances can be found in and around every high school. Although we faced temptations to misuse alcohol and smoke, as do teens today, entertainment wasn't drenched in violence and moral perversion as it is today. Personal computers, cable television and movies with "adult" themes (in the modern sense) were almost nonexistent. Life was simpler and less demanding. In one simple way, though, teens today are like teens of past generations. We all experience this common link: a desire to be accepted by our peer group. This is normal for people of all age-groups, but it's especially powerful when one is young. Adults reading this know how you teens feel. We also went through this experience. Significantly, studies show that parents still exert the biggest influence on your lives when it comes to morals and goals. We dare not let you down. But peer pressure still exists. How can youth deal with it? In years past I often heard this sincere question in a variety of ways: "I don't understand myself—why I give in to something other kids are doing that I know isn't good. I have trouble resisting. What can I do that will help me and my friends?" If you have this question, there are steps you can take that can help improve your life in and out of your peer group. Let's face it. Teens' peer pressure is intensified by the electronic and print media. Movies, TV and music broadcast unspeakable acts of violence, sex and profanity, and some young people, looking for their day in the sun, pick up on those concepts and attempt to recreate them. It's a difficult age for the entire family, but even more so for teens. Let me offer a strategy that I've offered to teens over the years. It helped others. It might help you. Group influence A difficult thing for young people (and older people) is to interact with a group of friends and suddenly find the group going downhill morally. What can be done in this situation, if anything? First, be careful about following a crowd whose collective thinking begins to deteriorate. Often groups can get off track because they act more on emotion than sound reason. When a group member assumes dominance among his (or her) peers, most people in the group will follow his influence, right or wrong. Before you know it, this person has some of the weaker group members agreeing with him. This can result in what has been called groupthink. Groupthink can quickly go wrong. A self-appointed leader will suggest something that's daring and risky—such as taking drugs, performing some act of violence, doing vandalism or engaging in a sex act—to elevate himself in the eyes of the group. Notice carefully: The leader will seldom risk himself but will try to push others in the group to take the biggest risks. If you see the signs of this among your peers, it's time for you to bail. Knowledge is power. Knowing these signs can help you withdraw from a wrong group activity before it gets a full head of steam. When you see this kind of thing building, quietly remove yourself. Suddenly you remember you have something to do somewhere else. This is a true statement, since you have better things to do with your time in some other location. If you can leave without saying anything, that's better yet. Unless you happen to be persuasive and understand the basics of social psychology, it probably won't help to try to stem the tide of a large group. There are occasions when a teen can do this, but it's tricky and risky. It is the better part of wisdom to step aside quietly and disappear from that group. The Bible tells us that bad company can corrupt good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). Who is a true friend? What's your definition of a true friend? If your friends lead you into breaking the law and doing harm to others, they are not good friends. A true friend cares about your welfare. A true friend will not lead you astray. A true friend will communicate with you and interact with you in a way that upholds your standards. A true friend will protect your reputation when you are not around to defend yourself. A true friend respects you and your beliefs. What are your friends like? The Bible speaks of choosing friends carefully: "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul [life]" (Proverbs 22:24-25). Jesus Christ chose His friends carefully; they were the ones who did what He said was the right thing to do (John 15:14). God's commandments are designed to protect everyone. This is the best place to start when choosing your friends. Search for friends who respect the morals found in the Bible, which are based on the Ten Commandments. Remember the definition of a true friend, and be careful not to assign the word friend to just anybody who comes along. Apply critical thinking when selecting your friends. If we're too picky, we might wind up with no friends, but insist on good character in your friends. The value of character Good character should be at the top of your list when choosing a friend. The Bible says we should choose a good reputation over great riches (Proverbs 22:1). We live in a world awash in moral relativism. Moral relativism is an attitude that says, "I'm okay, and you're okay, no matter what we think and do as long as it doesn't harm the other person." Don't be fooled. Everything we think and do affects others directly or indirectly. For example, if you watch TV programs saturated with violence or sex, this will become a part of your thinking and will weaken your resolve. On the other hand, if you read or watch positive things, it will be easier to remain strong if your peer group takes a wrong turn. Don't be deceived by someone who tries to convince you that right moral principles can vary depending on the situation. Follow God's advice from the Bible when it comes to the value of good character. Since we interact so closely with our friends, they have a strong influence on our lives. It makes good sense to pick them carefully. Keep in mind that they will help to shape the rest of your life. What is good character? The word good comes from the word God. This helps us remember that good character stems from God, who is our truest Friend. This same God is our Creator, the one who made us. He gave us a manual to read and follow, one that always tells us the truth about any situation in life, showing us the best way to live. The Bible is filled with advice on developing good character and how to spot it in others. The best advice I can give you is to begin reading the Bible to learn about the subject of good character. Learn it now and it will protect you through your teen years and enrich your adult life. What you do today lays the groundwork for tomorrow. Don't treat this advice lightly if you want the best that life has to offer. Let God be your guide We've talked a lot about God in this article as the source for choosing good and true friends. Without God, you and I would have nothing worthwhile, and that includes good friends. Finding good friends is a challenge; it can be difficult to find people who exemplify the standards you value. But you can become a good friend to others and set a good example for other teens to follow. Isn't that worth your efforts? If you will do the right things, think the right thoughts, others will gravitate to you. Why? Because you will be different, and they will want to know what you have that they don't. At the same time, you shouldn't flaunt your good character before others. Let it speak for itself, quietly, by example. Offer sound advice when the time is right. Who knows? You might become the leader of your peer group. It has happened before. What we're talking about here is real. Wrong peer pressure can harm you. Deep down you know that. Remember to choose friends who have good morals and ethics. Let them become your peer group. Place a high priority on character. Value it more than anything else, and it will pay off for you big time. Finally, let God be your guide in all that you think and do. He made you. He knows what works best for you, for all of us. These are some of the strategies I have shared with other teens. They work. Begin today to rise above wrong peer pressure. You can do it! GN

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