Is it possible to overcome “fear of man” and resist peer pressure? How can I stop being so easily influenced to do what I know is wrong?
Peer pressure: who hasn’t experienced it? It’s everywhere—at school, at work, among friends. It’s that seemingly overwhelming pressure to conform, often against what I know is right. When I give in, I end up feeling empty and powerless inside. Not only that, but I am also weighed down with thoughts of regret and a bad conscience. I know it’s not the life I am called to as a Christian, but what can I do? Can I really resist being influenced by other people and their opinions?
Why am I so easily influenced by other people? It is because I am controlled by thoughts about what the others think about me; I’m afraid of what they might say if I tell them what I really believe, or if I don’t go along with what they are doing. I might lose my status with them, and they might even start saying things about me when I’m not around! This is sometimes referred to as the “fear of man;” it is the opposite of fearing and serving God, and it is the reason why it is difficult to resist peer pressure.
I need to acknowledge the truth about myself. I need to admit that I am bound by what people think of me. I need to admit that I all too often make decisions that go against what I know God wants me to do, because of pressure and influences from my peers or the media. And I need to desire to become free from it! Then God can start helping me. He can even help me to the point that I can become a good influence on the people around me!
Serve God alone
It can feel so important to be accepted by people, but what about being accepted and esteemed by God Himself? When my actions are controlled by what other people think, I lose my connection with God and my ability to serve Him and hear His voice.“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5. The first step in being able to resist peer pressure is to decide to live for God alone: to love Him and to have a fear to sin against Him. If I sense I lack love for God and don’t have this holy fear to sin against Him, I can pray to Him who gives “liberally and without reproach” and I will receive it! (James 1:5)
Avoid bad company
When I admit the truth about how easily I am swayed by peer pressure, it should be a matter of course that I don’t put myself in situations where I will be more easily tempted. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 it is written,“Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” Deep down I know who influences me in the wrong way. “But they’re my friends,” I reason with myself, “If I stand up to them, they might reject me!”
But if I continue to spend time with these “friends” who pressure me to do what I know is wrong, then I can’t serve God and be faithful to Him. “Bad company” also includes what I watch or listen to, where I “surf,” and what I read. This “evil company” clouds my vision and goal to be free from sin, and can lead me into unnecessary temptations. It is only when I separate myself from bad company that I can make progress in my Christian life!
Even when I am careful about what kind of “company” I keep, I will still face unexpected peer pressure. I need to be prepared beforehand. I need to wake up each morning with a decided mind to keep myself pure and obey God’s leading in my heart. Psalm 118:6 says,“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” I need to arm myself this mindset so I am ready throughout the day.
There is no reason to be ashamed of being a Christian. If I have decided to serve God with my life, then He can give me boldness to stand up for what I believe is right. In 1 Peter 3:17 it says,“For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” The worst thing that can happen is that I have to suffer the disapproval of people for doing what I know is right, but that disapproval is nothing compared to the inner peace and joy I get when I have a pure conscience before God’s face.
Become an example
By telling the others what I believe, and then living according to that testimony, I become an example. In Matthew 5:14-16 it says,“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Instead of making up excuses, and simply avoiding situations, I can choose to be a light to the darkness that is in the world. I can use free time to get to know God’s Word, to seek good influences of people who want to keep themselves pure in the same way that I want to. In this way, I not only resist peer pressure, but I can have a good influence on the others around me!
Trust in God
God strengthens me when I have a heart to live for Him.“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9. When I live before God’s face alone, then God Himself becomes my ally. The more free from people I become, the more I am awakened to what God is speaking to me personally. I become free to think, act and speak according to how God is working in me through the Holy Spirit. Then I become a help, blessing and example for those around me, and I am filled with an inner joy that comes only from doing what I know is right before God’s face.