Peer Pressure

I was always taught about the evils of peer pressure--that I should steel myself against times in my life when the peers I surrounded myself with would invariably attempt to entice me to do something that was immoral.  I was taught that I should surround myself with good friends and that I should make strong resolutions well in advance so that when the time came when my less-than righteous friends tried to get me to do something bad, I'd have the strength and resolve to say no.  This is taught in church all the time, especially to the youth.

I always had a problem with the "don't be friends with bad people" teaching.  I'm pretty sure the Jesus described in the New Testament hung out with prostitutes, dishonest tax collectors, and all sorts of other kinds of "sinners".  As he said, the whole need no physician, but it is the sick who need a physician.  Anyway, setting that aside, I want to focus merely on the topic of peer pressure.

In my own life, I have seen peer pressure exist in many different settings and situations.  And, honestly, I'm going to branch out and include all types of pressure, not just by peers--so, that would include familial pressures, authority figure/subservient pressures, etc.  Of all the pressures I've seen, I'd say that societal/religious pressures are probably the most intense.  Peer pressure is easily avoided because it happens in isolated situations.  Familial pressure plays a bigger role in other cultures, such as China where it's basically a crime to disobey your parents.  But, societal pressures are everyday before us.  They are very difficult to avoid.  And many times they are subliminal or subconscious.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out a few examples of pressure (or the lack thereof) in my own life.  When it was time for me to serve a mission--when I was 18 almost 19--I felt very little pressure from my parents.  I knew that they'd be proud of me for going, but I have an older brother who didn't serve and they still treated him very much like a son, so there weren't any worries there.  I did feel a bit of pressure from friends, but it didn't really feel like pressure because I actually wanted to serve a mission.

A while back, when I went to the bar with some new friends, I told them that I had never had a drink before.  They let me know that it was perfectly cool if I didn't want to drink.  They didn't even apply the smallest bit of pressure to get me to drink with them.  In fact, I cannot recall one single time in my life where I had any friend pressure me to do something that was against my convictions.  I don't doubt that it does happen, and that friends are often pressured into doing something that they would otherwise avoid, believing it to be immoral.  But, I don't think it has ever happened to me.

At any rate, the point is that when I came out to my family and to my friends on Facebook, I received a litany of emails from my friends all pressuring me into obeying church policy and recanting my announcement of my sexual orientation.  I have never experienced such pressure in my life.  I was hearing from friends that I hadn't heard from in years who felt that it was their place to tell me what to do with my life.  Many tactics were employed in these emails to attempt to get me to return to the LDS way of thinking.  I had people remind me of wonderful spiritual experiences I'd had in the past--I'm assuming with the implied false dilemma that I had to reject those experiences in order to adopt a homosexual lifestyle.  Anyway, I received many many messages all with the intent of pressuring me to remain faithful to the LDS church.  It was the most intense outburst I have ever experienced.  In my opinion, the kind of peer pressure that I was warned about in Sunday school pales in comparison with this kind of pressure.  I suppose that this is peer pressure, since fellow members of the church would be my peers.

So, I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I think it's rather hypocritical of the church/church members to warn against the dangers of peer pressure and then turn around and employ those very tactics of pressure to get other people to do what the church says to do.

Personally, I think that pressure has its place, but that the general rule of thumb is that it should not be employed.  I think that it's best to let people do what they want or what they're comfortable doing.  If they want to participate in your church or drink what you're drinking or have extra-curricular relations with you, then let them do it on their own terms.  I don't see the benefit of guilting someone into something like that, or attempting to manipulate them or pressure them into doing what you think they should.  I've never been much of one to let people push me around, so all of this pressure I've experienced hasn't swayed me much in my decisions.  But some people are more susceptible to peer pressure.  When you're pressuring someone, just ask yourself--do you want them to do what you think is right because it's the right thing or because you think they should do it?  That is, do you want them to do it because you pressured them into it, or do you want them to do it because they believe that they should?