"Young People, Be Careful Who Your Friends Are!"
by Ken Gardner

Does it matter who your friends are? Of course! We become like the people we "hang out with." For example, if your friends think school is important, then you probably will, too. But if your friends think that it's not "cool" to study hard and get good grades, then that's the way you'll feel, too. If your friends experiment with drugs or sex, then you'll be tempted to do the same. If your buddies think it's childish to "go to church," then that's the way you come to feel. It's sooooo easy to go along with the crowd.

The impact that others have on us was the focus of a recent study of 20,000 high school students. Researchers concluded that "the kids that kids hang out with have the greatest influence on an adolescent's classroom performance" (Newsweek, "Will Johnny Get A's? It may depend on how well his friends are doing," July 8, 1996). The study revealed "that the youngsters with 'more academically oriented' friends did better over the course of school, and that kids who hung out with more delinquent types were more likely themselves to get into trouble." The study concluded that not only are teenagers influenced by their friends, but this influence (1) is generally bad and (2) may be stronger than their parents' influence on them. "The prevailing attitude among students is that 'getting by' is good enough. 'There is,' the study concludes, 'substantial pressure on students to underachieve.'" Furthermore, "at least by high school, the influence of friends on school performance and drug use is more substantial than the influence of parents." The study urges parents to "know your child's friends and steer children early in their development toward youngsters who value achievement and school."

So we become like the friends we choose. But none of this is news to us. We all know that "evil company corrupts good habits," as the apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV). Moses commended the Levites because (1) they refused to join their fellow-Israelites in worshipping the golden calf and (2) they were even willing to punish their own brethren for committing this abominable sin--"You were against your own sons and brothers," Moses told them (Exodus 32:29, NIV). Consider carefully the following passages: "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not ravel on it; Turn away from it and pass on" (Proverbs 4:14-15); "My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent . . . do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path" (Proverbs 1:10,15); "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil" (Exodus 23:2); "Blessed is the man," according to Psalm 1:1, "that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (Psalm 1:1); "Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son; but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father" (Proverbs 28:7);and, "Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul" (Proverbs 29:24).

Someone said, "Company, like elevators, takes us either up or down--depending on the way we want to go." First decide which way you want to go, and then pick your friends. Where you end up is more important than who your friends were. Don't forget Proverbs 13:20: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."