Misconceptions of Peer Pressure

My school district starts drug and alcohol prevention education basically when kids start school. I can remember being very young and having a blue dinosaur in a backwards baseball cap rapping to me about how you don’t have to take “gym lockerz” from other kids to be cool. Being drug free is what’s cool.

I think that this misconception of peer pressure is an important part of why it’s such a struggle for so many young people. I’ve grown up hearing adults (and other kids) refer to societal stress as “kids just wanting to be cool,” or people “feeling like they need to fit in.”  But even if from where you are standing, it seems like a lot of the decisions that teenagers make are a no-brainer, you have to realize the context.

Imagine driving your car on an road. The speed limit is posted. You’ve been driving for a pretty long time and there is a small group of cars that you’ve been travelling with. Now, all of a sudden all of those cars start driving double the speed limit, including the cars right behind you. Now, given what you know is right (the speed limit) and completely uncorrelated to you being cool or fitting in, can you honestly say that you aren’t going to change your behavior at all because of what’s happening around you?

It needs to be realized that a lot of us are put in a situation where we are watching everyone that we have grown close to are doing whatever it is that the blue dinosaurs have told us not to do. And despite the facts that we’ve been given and the guidelines that have been laid out for us, those things come into question. Especially when we start to see that a lot of the people who have taught us not to do whatever it is, do it (or have done it), too.

I think a lot of the disconnect lies in that peer pressure can’t be written off as superficial problem without trying to solve it with superficial prevention techniques. I have been to plenty of youth functions where the topic wandered from “GUYS! JESUS LOVES YOU THIS MUCH! OMG” to: “Don’t have sex until you’re married. K Bye.”

A lot of the case for abstinence involves the adults trying to convey the message saying that premarital sex is just inherently bad and that’s just how it is. But completely neglecting the part of the conversation where you talk about why God has laid out this rule for us. It’s also easy to forget the part why Jesus still loves you that much.

The fact that I’ve seen this first hand is why I’m not surprised when I read in RELEVANT that the vast majority of unmarried young adult Christians have had sex.

If the church wants to genuinely make an impact of young people’s decisions about sex (or anything else for that matter), there needs to be conversation that goes beyond what is being said now. And that conversation needs to come with the understanding that these decisions are not cost-benefit analysis, or based on being cool or fitting in, but are serious personal struggles that deserve the same attention as real-life (or even “grown-up”) problems.

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One thought on “Misconceptions of Peer Pressure

  1. Marianne,

    This is good stuff! Thanks for sharing it. I completely agree with you that adults (blue dinosaurs?) merely stepping in front of a crowd of youth and pronouncing “dont’ ahve sex because God said so” is a losing proposition.

    As I’m sure you know by now, we have a lot of trouble talking healthily about sex and sexuality in our culture – and even moreso on the church.

    I remember a conversation with a young person several years ago who told me she was struggling with hormones. She said this in a way that implied that adults don’t have or wrestle with hormones.

    I chuckled respectfully and assured her that adults have been where she is, and that, generally, we are not without hormones.

    To sum up, then, all this discussion would go better both ways if we all took the time and energy to think about the place and situation of the other.

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