Through my teenage years, I witnessed a great deal of peer pressure. Being raised in the 1960s and 70s was not an easy thing, but it did prepare me for other things in my life. I learned to stand up and be counted. I faced the fear of being called a “square” head-on. As I reached adulthood, I was pleasantly surprised that most people actually grow up. I witnessed peer pressure less and less often, until it virtually disappeared from my earthly experience—until recently.
I found myself in a room of senior citizens. Much like my childhood, I was the outsider. It was quite apparent that I was different from them. My comfort level was non-existent, but I shook it off. After all, I’ve spent my life being thrown into groups of people from all walks of life, and I’ve done quite well.
I’m not the social butterfly by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m never comfortable in a crowd. As a matter of fact, I would do quite well as a hermit. However, I’ve learned to mingle in a crowd, exchange pleasantries, and even have a good time—regardless of any personality or cultural differences.
There was a difference between my youth experience and my adult experience with crowds. I assumed that adults didn’t apply peer pressure, as I had never experienced it or witnessed it as an adult. My oddities, peculiarities, and differences were always accepted at face value by others. I was allowed to be me without brutal criticism—regardless of my differences of opinion with people.
I usually felt respected by those I came in contact with, even if they didn’t understand my way of thinking. As a young person, that was not the case at all. Maybe I have just been a very lucky woman to have been thrown in respectful groups of people. I don’t know.
At any rate, I was quite shocked at this group of senior citizens recently. In the 4 ½ hours I spent with this group, I witnessed extreme peer pressure and even bullying multiple times. The worst of it was directed towards a couple of other people, but I was the brunt of peer pressure, mocking, and criticism a couple of times myself.
Although I was in shock that this still happens among very intelligent and educated senior citizens, I dealt with it much better than I did as a youth. Life experiences have shown me that I can be proud of who I am and what I believe.
Maybe this situation happened to me at this particular time as a reminder of the difficulty my grandchildren will have to maneuver as they reach their teen years. Is there a lesson I can learn to pass on to them? Pondering that, I went looking for guidance from our leaders.
Once Joseph Smith received this knowledge [that we are known and loved by Heavenly Father], his life didn’t get easier. In fact, he was faced with intense pressure from peers and adults. Joseph Smith’s history provides an important pattern for each of us. We can apply his teachings when we don’t know what to do, when we are faced with peer pressure, when we feel surrounded by temptation, or feel unworthy or alone. We can pray! We can call upon God in the name of His holy Son, Jesus Christ, and seek comfort, guidance, and direction (Elaine S. Dalton, “He Knows You By Name,” Apr. 2005 General Conference).
When we talk of peer pressure, what greater modern-day example do we have but the prophet Joseph Smith? He endured peer pressure at persecution levels until he was martyred at Carthage Jail.
A scripture comes to mind:
Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear (Moroni 8:16).
In my youth, I was fearful of peer pressure. I cowered and had little power to stand up for truth and righteousness. I avoided social situations in order to avoid the peer pressure. My recent experience was different. As I watched what was happening around me, I knew my boundaries. I let others exercise their agency, but was quite prepared to be a voice of strength if someone tried to make me cross the line of my own personal standards.
While I was not comfortable with what was happening, fortunately those in the group came just short of asking me to cross my own boundaries. Ironically, I came away almost wishing they had because I was so much more prepared at this stage of my life than I was in my youth. I was prepared to “speak with boldness, having authority from God,” and I had no fear of anyone in that room.
If any generation needs to stand up for truth and righteousness, it is the youth of today. They need to stand up to peer pressure with power from God. This recent experience has given me what I need to help my grandchildren maneuver the peer pressure they will most definitely experience in the years to come.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.