Growing up one of my best arguments, at least in my mind, for being allowed to do something that my parents didn’t approve of was the old classic, “But mom, all my friends are doing …”

This argument seldom worked as Mom generally shot it down by asking, “If your friends jumped off of a bridge would you join them?” I soon learned that was the end of the matter, at least as far as Mom was concerned. However, experience has also shown that frequently our answer would have been a resounding, “Yes!”

During those same years as I was growing up my parents were justifiably concerned about who my friends were and who I chose to spend time with. Despite my misgivings about my parents’ intelligence during those years, I now realize they were smarter than I thought and knew things that I didn’t.

Now that I am older and perhaps a little wiser, I see the wisdom in Mom’s question and its implied argument against the many foolish things I was tempted to do. Just because somebody else or even a lot of somebody else is doing something does not make it a good thing, or even remotely reasonable.

However, peer pressure is a powerful motivating force and often leads us to do things that we later regret. Peer pressure can and often does lead well educated and otherwise intelligent people to do foolish things.

Many young sailors have come home from their first voyages sporting tattoos. Not because they particularly wanted them, but because all of the other guys were getting them and they didn’t want to feel left out.

On a more serious note there is the case of Jim Jones and his cult. In November of 1978 over 900 people followed his lead and committed suicide together by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. This incident makes you scratch your head and wonder; didn’t their mothers ever asked them, “If all the other kids were going to jump off a bridge (or drink poison Kool-Aid.”), are you going to do the same thing?”

Who we choose to spend time with, and who we choose as our role models can make a big difference in our lives. As a quick demonstration allow me to offer the following two examples.

The first involves the letter E. It’s a very fine letter and gets used a lot. When the letter “E” hangs around with the letters, “A”, “H”, and “T” the result is H-A-T-E. However when that same letter “E” decides to hang around with the letters “L”, “O”, and” V” the result is L-O-V-E. Along the same lines Anger can become an Angel by simply replacing the “R” with and “L”.

Christ echoes that same thought in John 15:5 (“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”)(NIV) So choose your friends carefully!

John Fowler is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.