April Reflection – Peer Pressure
Hello from the Isle of Wight, the southern tip of England. It is a beautiful place to live and the Island’s motto is “All this beauty is of God”. How blessed am I! We are surrounded by water and I love to swim in the sea and walk along the beach. Amongst the busyness of everyday life there is such peace as you listen to the waves rolling in & out over the golden sands.
The beach has always been my go to place when I have been upset, worried or under pressure and especially when I am happy. I feel very close to God as I walk along the sands. Often the poem “Footprints” by Mary Fishback Powers (see below) comes into my head and I know that I am never alone.
I was asked to write this reflection before the end of 2019 – way before COVID-19 took hold of our lives; so I thought I would add to it now.
How are you feeling? How has your life been impacted?
For me personally I am finding being indoors very limiting so I am trying to ensure that I can find a neighbour or elderly church friend that I can help each day. I can go shopping for them or just ring them for a chat; especially those that I know are on their own. Our church prints a weekly newsletter plus our Sunday service including songs, prayers and bible readings. Most people receive it by email but we have a few that need it to be hand delivered so a team of us print them and walk the streets of Ryde to deliver them. This is an ideal way to prayer walk the town as we go and then we spend time chatting to whoever we are delivering too – in one place I now chat with several of her neighbours as they are all sitting in the shared garden area. They share the service sheet together, which is great.
The beach has become my refuge during this time, it is where I choose to go to spend time with God as I listen to the waves coming in and going out. Our God is an awesome God and he has given us so much to think about, look at and listen to. Go outside to hear the birds singing and the trees rustling in the breeze. The other day I laid on the grass in the park overlooking the beach and just looked up into the sky and began looking for the shapes and the animals in the clouds – I haven’t done that since I was a teenager and it felt so good. A time when my life was carefree! This is the life God wants for all of us Matthew 6:25-34.
Peer pressure is the direct influence on people by peers, or the effect on an individual who gets encouraged to follow their peers by changing their attitudes, values or behaviours to conform to those of the influencing group or individual. This can result in either a positive or negative effect, or both.
How do we deal with peer pressure? What do we say to our friends?
4 ways to say “no”
It can be hard to say ‘no’ to our friends, especially when they are all joining in.
Sometimes it can feel like we have to do what they tell us in order to be accepted. It can make you feel scared and alone. It is not ok for friends to pressure you like this – and it’s not your fault. Try these tips and see if they help:
- Say it with confidence. Be assertive. Practise saying ‘no’, so that it is easier when someone asks you to do something you know is wrong. Avoid situations that feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You could explain that you are going to pay for something instead of stealing it.
- Try not to judge them. By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.
- Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’. It takes confidence to say no to your friends. You could try seeing how your other friends stand up to peer pressure and you can try this too.
- Suggest something else to do. If you do not feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, why not suggest something you could do instead.
When I was a teenager (many years ago some of you may say), I was in this situation many times and it was hard to admit in front of friends & to my 4 brothers that I was a Christian and went to Church every Sunday as well as going to Girls’ Brigade on a Wednesday evening – my favourite part of the week. Then my Church youth leader gave me a bracelet with 4 letters on WWJD (what would Jesus do). I wore it all the time and it really helped me to focus when I had difficult decisions to make. If Jesus was stood next to me, what would he do? Or I would ask myself – “Would I be happy to take Jesus with me?”
If we always follow our friends does it make us feel good or does it leave us wondering what life would be like if we had followed our instincts, our parents instructions or what the teacher had asked? I know if I ever did anything wrong it gave me a horrible feeling in my stomach and I couldn’t sleep at night until I told someone my fears. As a child this was usually my mum or dad – once I gave my life to Jesus it was a privilege and still is to share everything with him.
I asked some of the girls in my GB group – 3rd Ryde for their views on peer pressure and these are their replies:
“Peer pressure is a big thing that affects all teenagers. I feel that my experience with peer pressure made me want to change my personality and the way I look to ‘fit in’. It made me doubt myself and feel very low at times. However now that I’m older I have started to think that it doesn’t matter what people think of me, making me feel more comfortable with the way I look and happier within myself.” Georgina, 16
“Peer pressure is when your so called ‘friends’ tell you to do something that you don’t want to do such as smoking, skipping lessons at school or even dealing with drugs and no one should be peer pressured – it makes people feel sad because you know you shouldn’t of done it and then you will realise they are not true friends but if you have people peer pressuring you, you need to say no and tell a teacher if you’re at school or a parent or if you are at Girls’ Brigade you should tell a leader or whoever you are comfortable with.” Kelsey, 12
At the moment we are forced to stay home and spend time with our families. How do we stay in touch with our friends? We are using social media – how safe are we? Are we thinking of what we are posting especially photographs? Please do not be persuaded to make inappropriate posts. Once again my bracelet comes to mind WWJD – would you want Jesus to see what you have written? Would you want him to see the photograph? Would you want your parents or grandparents to see them?
A couple of sayings my mum would often be heard saying to us – “Remember to put your brain into gear before opening your mouth” and “If you cannot say something nice, do not say anything at all.” I would say to you all “Remember to put your brain into gear before posting on social media.” And “If you cannot post positive, encouraging messages then do not post at all.” Please remember what goes online stays online.
How can we get through this time – another bracelet I was given as a teenager – PUSH (pray until something happens)! God is never engaged; he is never too busy to listen to his children. Cast all your worries onto him.
God wants each one of us to live our lives to the full and we cannot do this if we are always worrying about what others are thinking and saying. We need to fully focus on God and then we will be truly blessed by him.
Spend time looking after yourself. Ensure you eat healthily, stay hydrated, exercise and sleep well. Take care of your mental well-being too – The Girls’ Brigade Ministries have some amazing resources on their website under KOKO that may help you.
‘Therefore tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father, feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.’
‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’
Each of us is unique and made in the image of God.
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
The above 3 readings are very powerful and each one shows us how much God cares for us and loves us. God tells us that he has a plan for each of us and that he knows us intimately. How awesome is our God. Even if there are times when we forget about God – he never forgets about us; he never stops loving us and he never stops wanting the best for us. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Dear God, help me to love you and understand your word. It is awesome that you knew me and loved me before I was even born. Help me to share with my friends how much you love each one of us. I am only one person but with your help and guidance I can step out in faith. In this time of uncertainty I pray that you give me patience, compassion and understanding. Help me to be kind to my family as we spend time together. Encourage me to share my concerns and anxieties with you. Help me to trust in you. Amen
‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’
Footprints by Mary Fishback Powers
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”