Peer pressure. We’ve all dealt with it throughout our lives, but does it still effect us as adults? Social Psychologists from SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland recreated the well-known Milgram Obedience Study (Milgram Shock Experiment) and discovered that the results were astoundingly similar to the results of the original experiment in 1963.
Like the Milgram study, the participants of the current study were provided with 10 buttons. The participants were led to believe that each button caused an individual in an adjacent room to receive a higher “shock” level (although, in reality, no one was receiving any type of shock). The participants were then encouraged by the experimenter to “administer” increasingly higher levels of the supposed shock to an individual in another room. The researchers of this experiment discovered that 90% of the participants were willing to go to the highest “shock” level.
But why do we act this way under pressure?
The Theology of the Body tells us that we are, first and foremost, persons who have a God-given right to be treated with love—as well as an obligation to treat others with that same love. When others try to pressure, manipulate, control or bully us–or when we do the same to others—we turn other people into a project, a thing, or a means to an end. In those times, it’s OK to set appropriate boundaries until we can either be sure that what we are being asked to do is genuinely in our best interest or that the other person will stop treating us as a means to their end. Although self-donation requires us to be willing to prayerfully consider, with a generous heart, the things others ask of us, we should never say, “yes,” to something we aren’t certain will either help us become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people God is calling us to be or respects the relationships and obligations God has already asked us to be faithful to.
These More2Life Hacks are helpful tips to keep in mind when dealing with pressure from others:
Ask, “Is It Good?”—No one ever has the right to manipulate, control, or bully us. But people are permitted to attempt to influence each other IF they genuinely believe the things they are asking us to do would help us become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we were meant to be OR help us do a better job fulfilling the obligations God has asked us to be faithful to. Just because someone asks us to do something we don’t want to do, or even leans on us a bit to do it, doesn’t mean they are necessarily behaving inappropriately. When we feel pressure, the first question we need to ask ISN’T, “Do I FEEL like doing this?” But rather, “would doing this help me do a better job of being the healthy, whole, loving, well-integrated person God is calling me to be?” If the answer is yes, then I should say, “yes,” regardless of how I feel. If no, then I have an obligation to oppose whatever pressure the other person may assert. Our first obligation is never to either our feelings or other people, it is always to God’s call in our lives to grow into the saints we were created to be.
Always Propose, Never Impose—St. John Paul used to offer this rule of thumb, “Always propose, never impose.” Even if others are genuinely trying to work for our good, or we are trying to work for theirs, we always have to be careful about turning people into projects. It is possible to pursue the right course of action in the absolutely wrong way. When someone is asking us to make a change we don’t care to make—even when it IS in our best interest—or if we are asking someone else to do the same, a good question to ask ourselves is, “Is this request becoming the entire focus of our relationship?” If it is, chances are we are either being treated as a project instead of a person OR that we are treating the other as a project instead of a person. In those instances, we have an obligation to set some boundaries and say something like, “I appreciate that this is important to you, and even that this is a good thing, but I need to know that there is more to our relationship than this one thing.” Then figure out how to reclaim the connection that’s been lost even while finding ways to keep growing in necessary ways.
Stand Firm—Once you have prayerfully determined that the thing someone is asking you to do is either helping you become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled person God wants you to be, stand firm. As Jesus said, let your “yes be yes and your no be no.” If you believe that the thing someone is asking you to do is really in your best interest, keep doing it even though it is hard. And if you genuinely believe the thing you have been asked to do is NOT in your best interest, then say “no” and stand firm no matter how they try to pressure you. As we mentioned earlier, our first obligation is to grow into the people God is calling us to be, not to make our feelings or other people a false god. Discern the best response to a request, and stick with your answer unless you are given new information that doesn’t just make you relent, but really helps you see that this is a truly good change to make.
For more on how to handle pressure from others check out God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts! and tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday at 10am E/9am C, on EWTN/SiriusXM 139.