We generally equate peer pressure with the teen years. But as my wife and I were discussing recently, peer pressure doesn’t go away, it just changes shape.
In elementary school, we were concerned about having a “cool” backpack or lunch box. In junior high, we wanted to be part of the in-crowd, the cool kids. In high school, we had to wear the right fashions, listen to the right music, and attend the right parties. As a high school senior, the pressure was on to be accepted into the right college or university and receive more scholarship funds than our rivals.
In our twenties, people asked when we were going to get married. We felt left out when our friends starting pairing up and heading to the altar. Then it was the pressure to buy a house, establish a career, and start a family. Since we attended seminary after college and waited to start a family until after I finished school, we were certainly behind the pace of our peers.
In our forties & fifties, we measured ourselves against other parents on the barometer of how well our children were doing in school, what extracurricular activities they were involved in, and whether they scored the winning goal or touchdown or made the honor roll.
Now that we are in our sixties, my wife and I feel pressure about retirement. We are being asked, “When will you retire? Where will you retire?” We start to ask ourselves, “Can we take an exotic, foreign vacation like our friends?” Then there is the pressure to have grandkids so we can tell our friends about what they are doing.
As a pastor, I feel the pressure of how the church down the street or across town is doing. Does Church A have more people than we do? Is Church B meeting their budget? Is Pastor C on the radio? Does Pastor D have a podcast? Is Pastor E a published author? I ask myself the uncomfortable question, “Am I as ‘successful’ as my peers? Do I measure up?”
It seems that I need to review and embrace the apostle Paul’s instruction in Galatians 1:10.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Rather than succumb to the pressure of my peers, I need to focus my attention on pleasing the audience of One.