“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians. 15:33
My last post focused on the benefits of having close friends. This post will focus on the flip side: the perils of hanging out with the wrong crowd.
The title comes from the saying “If you lie down with the dogs, you get up with fleas.” The biblical version of this is the verse above. Basically, you become what your friends are. You might have good character, but your peer group can corrupt you.
There are several variations of an old saying: “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” In fact, people notice who you surround yourself with and will judge you based on that.
According to Randy Gravitt, a leadership coach: “Studies shows that you are the average of the five people closest to you.” If you don’t like where that is headed, it might be time to surround yourself with different people.
When we choose to associate with people, we tend to adopt or mimic their behavior, language and habits. That’s what Paul is warning us about in 1 Corinthians 15:33. It was true then; it is true now.
A challenge to all adolescents is the age-old quest to find out their identity. They yearn for a sense of belonging and purpose. The search often leads to conformity with a group of people without a lot of thought about where it will lead them.
I have met with a young man for over a year. During our times together, we talked about how he could change friends in his peer group. He was concerned about his own situation.
Fast forward to yesterday when I texted him to see if we could get together. His mother texted back on his phone that he had trouble with drugs and “a bad friend group.” They were putting him in a treatment center.
I was shocked. He is a high energy young man with a great future in life. He is unlike many of his generation (Generation Z) because he reads widely. He is interested in lots of different things. Our times together were fun and challenging because he always asked interesting questions.
I didn’t see it coming. His mother went on to say that she was grateful for my mentoring and loving her son and would appreciate my prayers for him.
Adolescents often don’t see the impact their peers can have on their life if they choose to hang out with the wrong group. My young friend realized his plight but missed the chance to change his friend group in time.
I texted his mother back and said that, when he was ready, I would be glad to walk alongside him again. Mentoring often involves helping a person recover from past mistakes and to help them make better choices.
Our text exchange came on the day that I was reading an interview of Jud Wilhite, the senior pastor of a church with multiple campuses and 20,000 members in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, peer influence is high on the list of reasons that people get into drugs. If doing something is the norm in your circle of friends, you are more susceptible to making that first (but not last) step. It only goes downhill from there.
A helpful article is one that lists 15 signs that people aren’t your friends. Number 12: “They are a bad influence and make you do bad things that gets you into trouble. ” Bingo. The article is a useful checklist for your mentee to evaluate his relationships.
The challenge is to help guide the next generation to choose relationships that will help them, not harm them. They might dismiss the possibility that their inner circle of friends has a negative impact on their lives. But the evidence shows that peer influence can make or break you no matter the goodness of your character.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your role may be to check your mentee for fleas. If he has them, you can help him get rid of the “junk in his trunk” such as a mistake he made due to the influence of bad company. It can help him return to achieving his goals in life. You can help him make better choices.
FURTHER READING: Interview of Jud Wilhite.
WORSHIP: Listen to You Never Let Go by Mat Redman.
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