How to Deal With Bad Influences
by Erik Jones - August 15, 2017
Negative influences are everywhere! They are at our schools, in our neighborhoods and on our social media feeds. How should you react?
If you are in God’s Church and live on planet Earth, then you know that life isn’t always easy. We try to live by a set of values that is like a foreign language to the people we are surrounded by. We all hope to positively influence others by our lives, but the reality is that the opposite can happen—others can negatively influence us.
It’s a reality that all of God’s people—teens and adults—live with on a daily basis. The negative influences come at us from all directions. We often deal with people at school and in our neighborhoods who live lives that are the total opposite of God’s way. When we scroll through our social media feeds, we will see things we wish we hadn’t—bad language, inappropriate pictures and advertisements that encourage us to watch and do things we shouldn’t.
God’s people have always struggled with the challenge of living God’s way in societies that did the opposite. For some examples, study the stories of Noah, Abraham, Jeremiah and Daniel. It’s not that our world is so much worse than the societies they lived in—it’s just that negative influences come at us in different ways.
Here are two things to consider about being a Christian in a world that is not:
Keep the right perspective about our world.
God’s people have to be realists because we understand a truth most don’t—this world is currently under the influence of Satan, not Jesus Christ. We are grounded in the reality that Satan is the “god of this age” and has “blinded” most people to think like him (2 Corinthians 4:4). His influence is especially cunning because he uses many different methods to deceive people to live contrary to God’s way. He can do it through sex, atheism, evolution, religion, human reasoning, drugs, etc.
Here’s the point for us: We can’t expect the world to positively influence us. The world is getting morally worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we shouldn’t be shocked that a world blinded by Satan is filled with bad influences, we should also not become desensitized either. In other words, we don’t want to become so used to immorality that it doesn’t bother us. It should bother us.
We must strive to keep the right balance Jesus taught in John 17:15: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” We cannot seclude ourselves from the world—we have to live in it—but we are to work hard not to be influenced by it.
Choose your friends carefully.
How do we avoid being negatively influenced by others? The answer is the same today as it was thousands of years ago—we have to carefully choose our close friends (those we spend the most time with). It is always best if our closest friends are in the Church. That’s why the Church considers it important to make it possible for teens to attend youth camp and as many Church activities as they can, because it will help them meet more people and make more friends.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have good friends who are outside the Church. Most of us spend the majority of our time in school and our neighborhoods, so we will be around people and we should make friends. If we are living a godly life, we should be the kind of friends people want to have.
But we still should choose our friends wisely, based on general standards of morality that are recognized even in the world. When choosing friends outside the Church, we can ask ourselves these kinds of questions: Are they honest? Are they respectful of my religious beliefs? Is their language generally clean? Will spending time with them tempt me in any way to compromise with God’s way of life? Will spending time with them cause me to condone behavior I know is wrong?
Consider the wisdom of Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” If our closest friends are unwise (and that describes nearly every bad behavior in our world), then we will be influenced in that direction. But if our closest friends are wise and influence us positively, we will find it much easier to avoid the bad influences of this world.
It is not easy being a teen in God’s Church today. But being a Christian has never been easy in any age. We can navigate this immoral world by understanding why it is the way it is and choosing our friends wisely.
For more insight on this topic and strategies for avoiding negative situations, read our Life, Hope & Truth article “Saying No.”