Is where your friends are taking you where you want to go?

Why is it that some people will have great influence on our lives and what we do, while others will not?  Everyday I am with people because I am a relational person, most people have relationships with other people as well. The question that often comes up is how does someone choose who to hang out with and who to avoid?  I have had teenagers tell me that friends they have, even though they do bad things, won’t have any influence on them.  But, you guessed it, not more than a few months later they are doing the same things.  This is that dreaded dynamic we call peer pressure.  There are two different kinds of peer pressure, not just one like everyone believes.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Positive Peer Pressure 

Positive peer pressure is what I use to encourage conversations and reaching out to others at youth group.  This is where we tell the student leaders to set the example for others and then encourage others to follow.  The same holds true when there are side conversations, or assorted shenanigans during our lesson time.  The student leaders can step in and say something as a peer and often change the direction of the offender.  We also ask them to be on the look out for those on the fringe and pull them into the activity or invite them to join their group.  This really works to get someone connected and helps others see the importance of that person.

Teens working together

The same happens when it comes to what friends like to do together.  We have a group that will help at the senior center once a month as they serve a meal to lonely seniors.  No one makes them come.  This is an opportunity for them to come and to influence other people their age to come.  At other times it could be influence on different behaviors.  I have had students flat-out tell someone how stupid it is to do drugs or go to the drinking parties.  When those things come from peers, it carries credibility that I can’t manufacture.  It just works.

Adults have their own issues, but the concept is still the same.  Why do people hang out in bars or go out partying?  It isn’t because they like how it feels in the morning, but because of the people there.  What would happen if adults said, “enough is enough, I am not going to just mindlessly go down this path?”  Then the next day a friend calls and wants to go do something that will likely be costly in one way or another.  Inserting positive peer pressure here would redirect that activity to something more meaningful.  Let’s go out to dinner.  Let’s go to an activity going on in the community, or at the church.  One person is not likely to go by themselves, but two people will.   A lot of meaningful world influence has come when a few people said, “what if we…” and then did it.

Negative Peer Pressure

This is the one that gets most of the attention.  This is where you see groups of people flipping cars over and lighting fires for some unknown reason.  Then when someone asks them what they are protesting they say, “I don’t know.”.  There is a magnetic pull that groups of people can have.  If everyone is doing it, will you?  Well, not necessarily.  But, it becomes very easy for the group to start to pressure you as the lone ranger and you might cave in.  I have seen it enough in youth ministry to know it happens more often than not.

Should you be on top of that?

Adults have this problem especially when it comes to chasing material things.  If someone gets a new I-Pad, then I need one.  There becomes this cycle of buying things just because it is supposed to make you happy.  But, it never does because there are more and more things to buy.  Now you are broke and still not happy.  People get together to talk about the things they bought and of course there is pressure in that to be able to join the conversation.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Who you hang out with does have an influence on your life, good or bad.  At the same time, you can be the one who sets the positive example.  You are not a mindless robot, but a thinking human being with purpose and passion.  Scripture says,

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

You know what is so exciting about that is when I have seen teenagers or children set an example for adults.  When students have gone to their parents or other adults and stood up for what was right, not in a disrespectful way, but in a way that upholds truth and integrity.  This takes courage and shows that no matter how young or old you are, you can make a difference.

Just the other day my son was in the van with my wife going to the drug store.  He was burdened because they were going to get some things for me, as I was not feeling well.  So, he said to my wife, we should pray for dad and he just did it.  “God, I pray dad feels better, amen.”  While so many people say they will pray for someone and never do, he did it.  He has set an example in faith even at 4 years old. If he can be a positive example at 4 years old, what is your excuse?

Do not be brought down by the people around you, bring them up. 


  1. When my nephew started high school, he was dating a girl who rubbed herself all over him. We could see his tongue dragging on the floor as he drooled over her.

    My husband and I took him out for supper one night and trapped him in the booth while we had the virginity talk with him. He squirmed all over and couldn’t get away fast enough, but a few days later he broke it up with her. And for us, we could lead by our own example of how to do it.

    I don’t know how long the talk lasted, but I think it was for quite a while.


    1. Sometimes you just need to trap them, that’s for sure. Leading by example is real important, although it is probably the thing most often over looked. If our words match our actions, it will be noticed.

  2. Good stuff Derek. I’m trying to get my students to read some of your posts. They get prizes for commenting on facebook to ones I share and tag for them:) I have a daughter who is struggling with this. She is way too trusting and gets burnt every time. Thank you for sharing the hard stuff:) Angie

      1. Derek is right – I didn’t mean to make it mysterious. We talked to our nephew about why abstinence was good, sex was not a game, girlfriends who wanted it that badly were not good girlfriends to have, and to stay a virgin. And why virginity was good. This is probably too much information, but my husband and I did wait for each other, so hypocrisy was not an issue when we did the talk.

        We were particularly harsh on how a 15 year old can become a father and what would be the consequences from that. I’m pretty sure my nephew had not considered that at all nor did he think it would happen to him until we spelled it out.

        I didn’t tell my sister for quite a while what we did. She roared with laughter – no way she could have gotten away with telling her son that! She had wondered why he broke up the girl instead of going through with the sex.

        I love my nephew, but I was more concerned about him wrecking his life than whether he’d be mad at me for the rest of high school.

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