Contrary to what your parents taught you, peer pressure can be a wonderful thing!
Parents of every generation warn their teenagers to not be influenced by the crowd. “Just because Johnny jumps off a cliff would you do it too,” is the way the reasoning typically goes. The assumption is always that Johnny is going to jump off a cliff. Little thought is given to the very real possibility that Johnny might do something kind or wise or generous.
More effort needs to be placed on finding positive influences than focusing only on avoiding negative forces.
This past summer, my wife and I slipped down to Seattle for a couple baseball games. At one point a foul ball was hit down the line directly in front of our section. The ball girl, like they so often do, picked up the ball, brought it to the edge of the stands, pointed out one cute little fellow about six-years-old and proceeded to toss the ball to him.
It was a perfect scenario, except, a thirty-something-year-old, who clearly worked out a lot snaked out his hand and caught the ball intended for the kid and then sat smugly back down holding it proudly for his girlfriend to see.
Grabbing a ball intended for a kid and then sitting down proudly? What a jerk! And he would have remained in jerk land, proud of his accomplishment except he was not alone. He was surrounded by about a thousand influencers in his section and all thousand of us began to boo. It took only 10 or 15 seconds for him to come to his senses and do the right thing.
Who is in your life who will boo when appropriate?
Who will let you know in no uncertain terms when you are being a jerk?
How about when you are venturing into dangerous or morally wrong territory? Better yet, who will model mature, gracious behavior and influence you up? Who will show you the right paths to take?
Parents of every generation were not wrong to be concerned about peer pressure. It is a powerful force. What was often missed was the role it can play in keeping us on a healthy course.
St. Paul wrote to a group of Christians in the region of Galatia with some crucial instructions. I’ll generalize his comments and put them in my own words.
“Friends, if someone you know falls off a good path into a ditch, those of you who are on the path and have solid footing, help your friend get out of the ditch and back on the path. But make sure you do it humbly and gently because next time it might be you in the ditch and you’ll need someone else’s help.”
We live in a climate that embraces serious individualism. We place immense value on doing one’s own thing and being self-fulfilled. Perhaps it’s time to resurrect the ancient adage that it takes a village to raise a child.
Maybe we should even take the concept a step further and embrace the reality that it takes a village to raise adults too.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna. This is a regular column in Okanagan Weekend.