Is it possible to overcome “fear of man” and not give in to pressure from my friends or classmates? How can I stop being so easily influenced to doing what I know is wrong?
Social pressure: who hasn’t experienced it? It’s everywhere—at school, at work, among friends. It’s that very strong pressure to do what the others are doing, often against what I know is right. When I give in, I end up feeling empty and powerless inside. Not only that, but I feel unhappy and have a bad conscience. I know it’s not the life I am called to as a Christian, but what can I do? Can I really stop being influenced by other people and their opinions?
Why am I influenced?
Why am I so easily influenced by other people? It is because it is so important for me what the others think about me; I’m afraid of what they might say if I tell them what I really believe, or if I don’t go along with what they are doing. Maybe they might think less of me, and they might even start saying things about me when I’m not around! This is sometimes called the “fear of man”, it is the opposite of fearing and serving God, and it is the reason why it is difficult to resist social pressure.
How can I go against this social pressure?
I need to admit the truth about myself. I need to admit that I am strongly influenced by what people think of me. I need to admit that I often make decisions that go against what I know God wants me to do, because of pressure and influences from those around me or the media. And I need to want to become free from it! Then God can start helping me. He can even help me to the point that I can become a good influence on the people around me!
Serve God alone
It can feel so important to be accepted by people, but what about God Himself – that He accepts me and thinks well of me? When my actions are controlled by what other people think, I lose my connection with God and I can no longer serve Him and hear His voice.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5. The first step in going against social pressure is to decide to only live for God: to love Him and to have a fear to sin against Him. If I sense I do not love God enough and don’t have this holy fear to sin, I can pray to Him who gives generously and I will receive it! (James 1:5.)
Avoid bad company
When I admit the truth about how easily I am influenced by social pressure, it should be natural for me that I don’t put myself in situations where I will be more easily tempted.
In 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) it is written, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” Deep down I know who influences me in the wrong way. “But they’re my friends,” I reason with myself, “If I stand up to them, they won’t like me anymore!”
But if I keep spending time with these “friends” who pressure me to do what I know is wrong, then I can’t serve God and be faithful to Him. “Bad company” is also what I watch or listen to, where I look on the internet, what I “follow” on social media and what I read. This “bad company” makes my vision and goal unclear, and can lead me into unnecessary temptations. It is only when I separate myself from bad company that I can make progress in my Christian life!
Even when I am careful about what kind of “company” I keep, I will still face unexpected social pressure. I need to be prepared beforehand. I need to wake up each morning and decide to keep myself pure and obey God’s leading in my heart.
Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” I need to arm myself with this verse so I am ready throughout the day.
There is no reason to be ashamed of being a Christian. If I have decided to serve God, then He can give me boldness to stand up for what I believe is right. In 1 Peter 3:17 it says, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
It may feel terrible to feel the disapproval of others when I do what I know is right, but that disapproval is nothing compared to the inner peace and joy I get when I have a good conscience before God’s face.
Become an example
By telling the others what I believe, and doing what I testify, I become an example. In Matthew 5:14-16 it says, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I can choose to be a light to the darkness that is in the world. I can use my free time to get to know God’s Word, to seek the company of people who want to keep themselves pure in the same way that I want to. In this way, I not only resist social pressure, but I can have a good influence on the others around me!
Trust in God
God gives me strength when I want to live for Him. “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT).
When I live before God’s face alone, then God Himself is on my side. The more free from people I become, the more I am awake to what God is speaking to me personally. I become free to think, act and speak according to how God is working in me through the Holy Spirit. Then I become a help, blessing and example for those around me, and I am filled with an inner joy that comes only from doing what I know is right before God’s face.