I’ve been told that if I stick to Church standards my friends will respect me more, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. They just think I’m acting stuck up. How do I keep Church standards without coming across as self-righteous?
It is frustrating when you are living as you know you should, and you are being ridiculed for it. It’s uncomfortable to be made fun of for any reason, but it is especially hurtful when someone makes your good choices seem like bad ones.
You may have noticed that instead of talking about how they are trying hard to do what’s right, teens sometimes get into conversations where they compare how bad they have been. Sometimes it seems cool to brag about getting drunk instead of mentioning that you don’t drink and never have. Instead of admiration, you may feel like your friends think you are a goody-goody, unadventurous, and maybe a little naive.
The answer to this dilemma may sound like a cliche, but it just happens to be true. You need to be true to yourself, true to the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If your friends only want you around when you’ll go along with the bad choices they are making, then they really aren’t friends. You must stand up for yourself. You can be friendly and fun and loyal without letting down your standards. Keep doing what you know is right, and your friends will separate into two groups—those who like you for what you really are, and those who really don’t care if they hurt you or not. The second group isn’t worth having for friends.
Another problem may come up when your friends tease you for the righteous standards you keep. Instead of admiring you, they may give you a hard time. But whose admiration do you really want? Your own? Your parents’? The Lord’s?
Elder Bryant Bush, serving in the Florida Tallahassee Mission, wrote and said, “Many times people have rationalized so many broken rules in their own lives that they think it’s silly when others try to obey them. Examine yourself. Are you trying to be obedient to impress others or to get nearer to God? It is important to keep examining yourself and not others.” In other words, you can enjoy being around many different kinds of people as long as your own hand is firmly grasping the iron rod.
We know it’s hard to have your friends leave you out of their activities even when it’s probably for the best. Just feeling left out is hard. But this time of your life will not go on forever. After a while your friends will become accustomed to the fact that you are not going to give in. And in the future, here on earth and throughout eternity, you will be very glad you stood up for what you believe. If you still feel bad about your situation, talk to your parents or Church leaders. They really will remember what it’s like and may be able to say something that will help.
Along with keeping Church standards, spread some sunshine. Be genuinely friendly, smile, and have a positive attitude. Show your friends that you truly love and care about them and their feelings, but that you’re also going to stick to what you know is right. Jesus taught by his good example, and so can you.
Becky Lawson, 18 LaVerkin, Utah
Many of my high school friends were respected for living Christ’s standards. They were an example to me. Without giving in on any standard, you can be an example to your friends by losing yourself in service.
Elder Todd B. Drennan, 21 Mississippi Jackson Mission
I made the mistake of trying to keep the standards but not explaining to my friends the reason why. When I took the time to, they listened and began to understand me more, which changed their view that I was “stuck up.”
Secondly, make sure that you keep what I call the quieter standards, things like being a trustworthy and loyal friend, not getting angry in situations, not gossiping, and so on. I certainly have found that it’s keeping these types of principles that has earned me the most respect from my friends.
Rachel Kent, 18 Plymouth, Devon, England
I have the same problem with my nonmember friends. They are really nice inside, but sometimes just act bad. I try to think of that. I try to be nice to them and show a good example. If they are true friends, they will try to respect our standards.
Kathleen Parker, 13 Anchorage, Alaska
My friends respect me a lot for standing up against peer pressure. One time I was at a party and my friend said she just had to have a beer. She turned to me and asked, “How do you do it?” Instead of making me feel bad, it made me feel good about myself.
Kelly Raddon, 17 Northbrook, Illinois
Since I’ve moved here from Utah, I’ve been labeled as “different” by my peers. They thought it was odd that I had never had a drink or smoke in my life and that I went to church every single Sunday. But they respect me, and I believe them because they are careful not to offend me, and they watch their language around me too.
My point is that if your “friends” don’t respect you, never forget who you are and what you stand for. Maybe find a new group of friends.
Karl Harwood, 18 Chagrin Falls, Ohio
When my friends do things or even talk about doing things that go against my standards, I explain to them that I don’t believe in that, so they’ll stop talking about it.
Staci Fredrickson, 16 Portland, Oregon