Peer Pressure, Workplace Issues

Enforced Pressure: Higher Stakes

While some peer pressure is the result of others seeking validation for their preferences and lifestyle choices, at other times, it can arise from more villainous motives. Throughout our lives, we repeatedly encounter those whose goal is to intentionally harass us into doing something that they know we believe to be wrong.

Whether it’s fudging a little on your time card (after all, five minutes now and then doesn’t really matter), taking home those nifty company pens (the store name is on them because they want it spread around), or telling a few off-color stories, the pressure to “conform” can be intense. If you want to counter this type of “enforced pressure” without compromising your faith, you must determine Who you serve before the pressure is on.

Why am I mentioning this principle for a second time? Quite simply because it’s an important one. I used to get a big laugh out of customers who would walk down an aisle, see me stocking shelves in my red company vest and ask, “Do you work here?” Mentally, I always found myself thinking, “No, I just randomly stock shelves wherever I shop,” or better yet, “No, this is just a hobby. I have uniforms for every store in town.” Of course I worked there! The very fact that I was stocking the store’s shelves made it (or should have made it) obvious.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, what seems glaringly obvious in a workplace situation isn’t always so clear in a spiritual one. So let me put it simply: as Christians, God is our Boss; We don’t stock the Devil’s shelves. We don’t give into pressure to do the wrong things just because it feels good or makes us fit in any more than we would provide free labor at Walmart while working for Shopko. To do so just doesn’t make sense.

The truth is that most people who exert this type of “enforced” peer pressure don’t do it because they want us to fit in. They do it because they want us to trip up. The Bible tells us in John 3:20 that “They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished.” Christians, especially those committed to following Christ in their daily lives, are lights in the darkness. This will likely make at least a few of our co-workers uncomfortable. Since they can’t stay away from us, some of them will intentionally try to justify their point of view by invalidating ours. In proving our hypocrisy, they dim the very light which exposes theirs.

By determining Who we serve beforehand (and steeling ourselves to stand firm), we’re heading this tactic off at the pass. When the difficult situations arise, there will be no question in our minds about the right thing to do… and we’ll know exactly where to get the strength to do it! We must kneel in prayer. Ask God for help. Then stand our ground.

Peer Pressure, Workplace Issues

Enforced Pressure: They Really Do Want Me to Be Like Them!

Peer pressure isn’t limited to our own, internal recognition that we don’t quite fit. Sometimes, others really are trying to force us to conform. While this type of pressure doesn’t always take the form of outright bullying, the choices it sets before us and the scars it leaves behind can be just as uncomfortable. Like any good soldier, if we want to stand firm, we need to be ready with a well thought out plan of defense.

Situations involving “enforced” peer pressure can’t be approached in the same way as “perceived pressure”. We do have control over ourselves and whether we become “big picture” thinkers, secure in our own identity. We don’t have control over how others view us or our life choices. Despite our best efforts to “be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18), not everyone will be comfortable with who we are and what we represent. When that happens, some people will inevitably respond by trying to transform us into something we are not.

Our beliefs, however, aren’t the only reason that we may encounter peer pressure. Indeed, many of the individuals who are guilty of exerting peer pressure aren’t nearly as interested in forcing others to conform as they are in gathering adoring followers for themselves. On occasion, the people who fall into this category are megalomaniacs on an ego trip. More frequently, however, they are individuals who are seeking to build up their own low self-image. If others adore them, then perhaps, they will also come to love themselves.

It should come as no surprise that this type of enforced pressure is actually the easiest to counter. People who fall into this category are in need of an ego boost. We just happen to be available to potentially satisfy that need – validating their attitudes and lifestyle through imitation. In such cases, rather than simply surrendering to the pressure or (as we’re more inclined to do) pushing back, we need to be beacons of love. We serve a God who delights in diversity… and so should we.

In living this life of obedience, it’s important to recognize that “different” doesn’t always equal “bad” or “wrong”. Just because I listen to the morning news and you watch the evening news doesn’t mean that either of us must make a judgment about which way is better or best. Our differing habits don’t reflect on our mental abilities or our worth as human beings. They are merely differences and they add color to life.

Steer clear of phrases that appear to degrade choices that differ from your own. And when you can legitimately avoid making a choice about what is better or best, do! A friend of mine once asked, “Why do I have to have a favorite? Why can’t I like them all?” His question is a valid one. A lot of heartache could be saved if we placed more emphasis on the beauty of variety than upon making judgments about its quality.

 That doesn’t mean, of course, that we accept every difference, viewpoint, or lifestyle choice as valid. (There are some differences which really do matter.) But it does mean that we accept the individuals who hold those differing viewpoints. As those around us grow to recognize the acceptance we offer, the peer pressure they exert upon us will often subside. (To be continued…)

Peer Pressure, Workplace Issues

Peer Pressure and the Workplace: Perceived Pressure Part III

If we’re honest, most of us want others to like us and this should come as no surprise, since God designed human beings to serve as a support system for one another. In Genesis 2:18-22 we read, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.”

The Apostle Paul also emphasized this principle telling us that, “…everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:3-8)

The difficulty arises not when we need others or when they need us, but when we begin to allow that need (and all of the expectations, false or otherwise, which go along with it) to mold us into someone other than who we are. Colossians 3:3,4 tells us, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” As believers, our identity is no longer governed by the sins of our past, the labels which are slapped upon us by others, or even the grand expectations of well- meaning friends and colleagues, but by Who Christ is and what He did for us.

Colossians 3:2, tells us to, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” The truth is, only as we devote ourselves to those things which honor God will we begin to understand our new identity in Him. And only as we understand that identity, will we find the type of security which doesn’t require the affirmation of others. This is the key to handling “perceived pressure.”

Like anyone else, we have to choose who we do (or don’t) want to fit in with and make our choices accordingly. If we’re in with one group, we can be certain that will be out with others. That’s a normal human condition and there’s really nothing wrong with it. In fact, if you look over your list of friends, you’ll likely discover at least a few who don’t have a great deal in common with you. Are they always trying to pretend they come from the same background, enjoy the same movies, or like the same clothing styles? Probably not. And neither should you.

If you want to avoid caving in to “perceived pressure”, you have to begin with being comfortable with who you are. It’s that simple. And that hard.