Respecting Others by Not Pressuring Them to Change

Respecting Others by Not Pressuring Them to Change

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Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection, and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. II Peter 1:5-7

One of the most prevalent challenges in life is peer pressure. Just about everyone is a victim at some point in life. And if we are all honest, just about everyone is or has been a perpetrator of it at some point in life.

What is peer pressure? Simply put, it is pressuring someone to change a belief or behavior to comply with the idea of a peer.

Peer pressure comes in two forms. One is direct pressure from one peer to another. An example of from high school and college is when a peer pressures a peer to drink, or drink too much. Let’s say that a high school student decides he or she is not going to drink (after all, it is against the law) but his or her peers (friends) pressure him or her to go to a party and once there to partake in drinking. In college, even once one has reached the legal drinking age, there is pressure to drink excessively. In adult life, peer pressure might come in the form of someone being pressured into volunteering for something they don’t have time or ability to do. It could be pressuring someone to spill dirt on a co-worker. Peer to peer pressure comes in many forms.

The other form of peer pressure is more of a societal one, not necessarily peer to peer. There is pressure on young people to get into a college, then to get into the right college, then to get the right job, for the right pay, so one can buy the right things. We will discuss this kind of pressure in the next reflection.

For now, let us stick with the peer to peer pressure. If we are supposed to esteem one another highly, what does it say for us when we try to pressure people to be what they don’t want to be, to do certain kinds of behaviors that they don’t want to do? Those who esteem one another highly do not pressure people to change in ways that run contrary to their beliefs. Rather they encourage people to be the best versions of themselves, celebrating their triumphs and values while gently encouraging offering suggestions for improvements on shortcomings.

Most people do not like peer pressure. It’s like we all hate it. So, if we all hate it, why do we all perpetuate it? If it’s something we all can’t stand, then why don’t we collectively stand against it? The solution to this problem lies within each of us. Collectively, we have the power to solve it. Individually, we have the power to lessen it.

There is a critical difference between encouragement and pressure. Pressure to do something is not encouragement—it’s actually closer to bullying. Encouraging someone to run faster or practice harder is encouragement, not peer pressure. Pressuring someone to continue running when they are obviously exhausted and teetering on dehydration is pressure, not encouragement. Challenging someone also walks a fine line between encouragement and pressure. Challenging someone to try something they’ve never done many times falls in the encouragement category. Challenging someone to do something that is risky and unsafe goes into the pressure/bullying category. Part of understanding the heart of encouragement is knowing the difference between what is a challenge and what is pressure.

To esteem others highly means to encourage, even challenge, without pressuring. Again, the goal is for each of us to be the best versions of ourselves, to be who God created us to be. We should encourage and challenge one another to this end. And we should accept encouragement and challenge from others to this end.

We spoke in the last reflection about creating spaces where we feel safe, and where others feel safe. Peer pressure not only creates spaces that are unsafe, peer pressure ultimately is disrespectful and costs relationships the opportunity to attain trust and love.

Today’s Scripture verses remind us that faith is supplemented through virtue, which starts a chain of positive things like knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and ultimately love. Peer pressure is nowhere to be found on this list, because it doesn’t lead to any of these things. In esteeming others, encouragement and challenge is good. Peer pressure, generally, is not.

Lord, help me to be someone who can encourage without pressure. Surround me with people who will challenge and encourage me. Help me to avoid succumbing to peer pressure. Help me to stay true to who I am, to be the best version of who You created me to be. Help me to bring out the best in other people. Amen.

Esteem others through encouragement and challenge but avoid peer pressure, either pressuring others or succumbing to pressure put on you by peers.

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0