Nobody wants to be rejected. When I was in middle school, it was cool to have jeans with holes in the knees. You could actually buy jeans with holes already in the knees! Some manufacturers also sold jeans with reinforced knees that were more difficult to rip. Guess which kind of jeans my mom bought?… I had to work extra hard to put holes in the knees of those jeans.
So tearing up a pair of jeans to fit in and making your mom mad is one thing, but what if something larger is at stake? What if in the process of looking for the acceptance by others, you lose a part of yourself? What if you give up more than you gain? What if next year you don’t know those people anymore but you still carry scars from the stuff you’ve done?
You see I’ve lived through that. I’ve been the new guy at school desperate to make new friends. I’ve felt isolated like everyone was staring at me and been in social situations where I was just praying for someone to rescue me from my isolation. Just someone to talk to so I didn’t feel so…. weird.
Finally someone walks over and asks you a few questions. Part of you is relieved that you are at least talking, another part of you wonders if this isn’t part of some cruel joke? Then they say something you know you should disagree with like “let’s all go murder a bunch of helpless kittens.” And the one thing you swore you would always be against, you find yourself invited into. You have a choice to make: do you violate your conscience and join them in murdering kittens or do you risk another hour of social awkwardness?
Your friends probably aren’t tempting you to murder kittens. It’s more like gossip. Maybe its drug related or pressure to do sexual things to fit in. It could be looking at dirty pictures or watching movies that you know you’re not supposed to watch. Hanging out in places your parents told you not to go. Some of you “feel” this need to be accepted so deeply that something that you were normally against you would now go and watch, observe, participate in just so you would not feel awkward.
The irony is that even though you feel it so intensely, the moment of social isolation will pass and may even be forgotten, but you will carry the scars left by the destructive things you have done with your friends.
That’s how it happened for me. It wasn’t murdering kittens, it was underage drinking. I knew my grandfather was an alcoholic. But when a friend said, “let’s go get drunk.” I caved under the pressure. Then one night they put a fifth of vodka in my hand and said, “drink this.” I downed it faster than it takes most people to drink a soda at their favorite fast food restaurant. That was probably enough alcohol to kill me. If I had been a smaller person I would have died that night. As it was, I threw up and they threw me in the back of a pickup without my clothes. When I passed out and they couldn’t wake me up, they propped me up against a dirty toilet in a filthy bathroom with a space heater. It’s a miracle that I woke up at all the next day.
I don’t have those friends anymore, but I do carry the scars around from what did while I was with them. That day I realized I needed to make a change in my life, I needed better friends. I didn’t realize it then, but I realize now I was learning Proverbs 13:20 the hard way.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 ESV)
Have you ever felt pressure to fit in? There are somethings worse than being socially awkward. Your parent’s care about what kind of friendships you have because they know that your friends have the capacity to pull you up or pull you down. They also know that you most likely won’t keep your friendships, but you will keep the scars (or trophies) from what ever you and your friends did together. If you don’t have good friends now consider praying and asking God to bring some incredible people into your life.