IT was a poignant and telling remark. My niece was asked on her twenty-fifth birthday if she had any special thoughts on the occasion. After a pause she said, ``I'm finally able to make my own choices. I'm not ruled any more by peer pressure.'' I found myself wondering what can be done about the intimidation many young people feel. What can free young people -- and adults -- from the bondage of peer pressure? Fundamentally, I've found, it's spiritual education. That is, to act on our freedom to choose good for ourselves, we each need to develop some sense of who we are as offspring of an all-wise and all-loving God, divine Love.
If people think of themselves as mostly dependent on others for happiness and approval, they're likely to ``follow the crowd,'' even against their better judgment. But if they get a glimpse of their God-created identity as spiritual and dependent on divine Love for all good, they can find freedom from such influences.
Delving into the Scriptures, we find that man (each of us) is truly the child of divine Spirit, dwelling securely in divine Love. Through Christ, God's message of truth, we begin to feel the divine presence. We come to see how precious we are to our creator. We discover that true joy and affection have their source in Spirit and therefore can't be taken away.
In proving this, all of us -- not just young people -- need a foundation that will guide our thoughts and actions. What better basis can we find than God, divine Principle, Himself? How naturally our lives are redirected -- even uplifted -- when we let God govern us. Turning to God, to Truth and Love, in prayer involves a humble yielding of our own personal desires. It requires us to trust in divine Spirit more than in our own or others' opinions. Asking God for direction in the silence of fervent prayer helps us to put obeying Deity before any efforts to please people.
We may find that our efforts to yield to God's will offend those who don't understand our desire to live righteously. But such disapproval is more than outweighed by the satisfaction we have when we are living in accord with divine law.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul admonishes, ``Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.... Let no man deceive you with vain words.... And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.''1 Paul knew what it was like to face disapproval and persecution as a result of obeying God. Yet he didn't stop preaching the gospel of Christ because people disapproved. In fact, his Christian faith and works of healing were bolstered, not weakened, by the pressure of opponents.
We today can have the same spiritual conviction that Paul did, the same firm commitment to God-impelled thinking and living. And these, in turn, will help us prove that the pressure to conform is, in fact, powerless because it is not supported by God.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ``God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love.''2
We can watch our thoughts to see that divine Spirit, not human opinions, reigns supreme. As we strive to honor God, we'll feel the power of Love supporting us. And we'll find, increasingly, that we are free to choose good.
1Ephesians 5:1, 6, 11. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 106.