KEVIN WENT TO a party with some friends from school. Some guys were smoking marijuana; others were getting drunk. Kevin had never been drunk. He had no intention of experimenting with drugs. He asked himself: “What am I doing here?” He thought about leaving.
This story could be told about many of our youth. A person growing up eventually confronts a black and white choice when confronted with “friends” who are doing bad things. The choice is obvious: Do I stay or do I leave?
It’s a tough decision. Without being explicitly aware of it, a young man or woman may initially believe: “I don’t want to get drunk. I’ll never use drugs. I have no desire to engage in any of the other stuff either. But these are my friends. They invited me. I’ll just hang out with them.”
I talk about youth. The logic applies to anyone anywhere, even to people who think of themselves as being more mature. While peer pressure influences, it can be more subtle. The pressure does not always come from outside, that is, from our peers. It can also come from inside. Let me explain.
When I was in university, I noticed in my own situation — the situation where Kevin had to decide whether to stay or to leave — that nobody cared what I did.
The booze and the drugs made it impossible for my friends to notice anything anybody was doing. The decision to stay or to leave had more to do with the dynamic of friendship.
Staying for the party was an attractive option if only because leaving was unattractive. Leaving meant being alone on a Saturday night. Who looks forward to being alone?
Whether you’re young or old, whether you’ve been through it many times or you’re going through it for the first time, a moment comes when you must decide: Am I going to stay or am I going to leave?
If you stay (as perhaps some of you know from experience), you will probably end up doing the same things everyone else is doing.
You do it not because you think those things will make you happy. Rather because you decided that this is where you want to be and these are the people you want to be with.
If you leave, you may feel a tinge of loneliness, initially. But, with faith in God, you will realise that you are not alone. First, because Jesus said: “Know that I am with you always until the end of time.” Also, because you will find other friends. This is the crucial fact. If you look for them, you will find people who have learnt the peace and joy that comes from living a Christian life.