Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Peer Pressure? Monster or Myth?

Do people really do things because their friends are doing it?

I suppose people join clubs, join social networks, attend movies at others’ recommendations – but do people really do things they don’t want to do because their friends are?

Is it not more likely that these people are their friends because of the choices the person has already made?

I think that peer pressure may be a myth that parents use to excuse their children’s behaviour, choices or actions: that they got in with the wrong crowd.

Maybe they are the wrong crowd.

I could be wrong. Maybe it is distressing to feel you are about to be socially isolated if you do not conform to expected standards. Maybe you feel you have to compromise your own will in order to be included and liked. Why would anyone want to be included and liked by people who were pressuring you to betray yourself?

Peer pressure, if it exists, is a result of the education system. By banging up children all day every day with their peer group, they will be left in no doubt about the kind of behaviours and choices that result in inclusion and acceptibility in that group.

Yesterday at church we were, well I was, and I think we were, considering peer pressure.

On the first Palm Sunday everyone was swept along, welcoming Jesus as king. By the end of this week we will be considering how the tide turned, how the crowd changed, and even Jesus’ closest friends bowed to the pressure of those around them, and he was rejected as king and executed.

Mob mentality is a strange thing. People swept away by the mood around them.

What’s that “If” poem? Here’s a link to the whole text.

The poem begins:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

and ends

..you’ll be a man, my son.

I like the lines:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken…

After my reflections on the words triumphal and triumphant yesterday, I am interested to see Triumph and Disaster as “imposters”.

The Triumphal entry into Jerusalem was short lived, and the disaster of “Good” friday was the moment of victory.

If the Palm Sunday crowd were the “right crowd” and the Good Friday mob were the “wrong crowd”, it is probable that they contained many of the same people, who couldn’t “keep their head” on either occasion.

I love ideas, perusasion, argument and thought.

This verse comes to mind:

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans ch 12 verse 2

Not so much keeping one’s own head, but having it transformed…

I feel myself slipping back into my “be true to yourself” argument… back to Tinkerbell’s vocation, Tony Campolo’s onion…




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7 thoughts on “Peer Pressure? Monster or Myth?

  1. Very thought provoking. Great post~ I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

  2. I have to echo what ceceliafutch said, this is an excellent and thought-provoking post. The title had me thinking about my daughter and how I never worried about her bowing to peer pressure, she knows herself and has stood up for herself. My son marches to the beat of his own drum and base, literally, my musician. What I really liked was the expansion of the scope in the subject matter. Mob mentality, acceptance and rejection, crowd control and the like. I’m rambling, you did an excellent job.

    • Thanks Laurie. I’m still not sure what I think. I have been thinking a lot about how goverments in the past have managed to brainwash their citizens. But, that’s not realy peer pressure, I suppose.

  3. theotheri on said:

    Well, this might be my typical “other side of the coin” comment, but I only partially agree with you about peer pressure. Peer pressure has a bad name – it suggests we can’t stand on our own two feet, that we are weak-willed, easily pushed around. And of course it is a factor in so many things we consider damaging – anorexia (because I want to be thin like those beautiful models), racism, drug addiction, gang behavior, not standing up for what one believes in.

    But rather than call it weak-willed, I think it is immaturity. We are not born with a strong character. We need to learn. We need to follow others. We need to be able to read what others are thinking, and there is often great delight in pleasing them. Not to care what others think isn’t always strong: it’s sometimes just self-centered uncaring, stubborn or unwilling to compromise..

    Giving into peer pressure is not essentially a creation of the educational system. It appears in the educational system, but it is a creation of evolution. We know that animals that don’t follow the crowd are often the ones that are caught and eaten by the lion. We need to listen to others. We often benefit hugely from following the crowd.

    And besides, we need to be accepted by others. We need to be loved. And that, in real life, often feels as awful lot like being liked.

    So I don’t think peer pressure is either a myth or necessarily bad. It’s like so much else – we need to find the balance between being an individual and belonging.

    Because we’re all in this together.

    Which I think is probably the essence of the Easter message, yes?

  4. Terry makes a good point. Sometimes, the pressure from our peers to do the right thing is good.

    What we need to be is individual thinkers with a conscience.

    We brought our boys up to think for themselves but respect the opinions of others; I don’t know what more there is.

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