Connection Magazine spoke with several high school students in the Cleveland metropolitan area about how they deal with the pressures and temptations of society, and how they stand for God in a secular environment. These students are as follows: Iris, a junior from Church on the Rise; Chris, a freshman from Morning Star Baptist Church; Emily, a senior from First Christian Church of Canton; Chrissy, a sophomore from Calvary Baptist Church of Elyria; and Mike, a sophomore from Redeemer Church of Parma.
Connection: What is one peer pressure that you find difficult to overcome, and how do you deal with it?
Emily: Mainly I've been struggling with-not even talking bad about people, but just talking about people in general. Like when you cross the line of just talking about someone as factual information or just gossiping. I don't like getting sucked into that, so I've been trying to be aware of that.
Mike: I would have to say drinking. So many people do it, and sometimes it's hard to stay away from it. I just have to be strong and remember to keep saying no.
Connection: How do you stay away from compromise?
Iris: Conviction. Pretty much just listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. There's this thing called "Thirty second kneel down," when you pray at your locker for thirty seconds. Each day, do it. Sometimes I don't want to. I think, "All these people are standing here. What are they going to think?" The thought that always goes through my mind is from God: "If you're ashamed of Me, then I'll be ashamed of you." That's what keeps me from it. Also, I know that people are looking around, and if I say that I'm a Christian, people are going to see that, and I represent Christ. I try to do that a lot, in the way I treat other people, because people are watching closely. My biggest fear is somebody saying, "You're a bad example" and "You mislead me."
Connection: Do you date? Why or why not?
Iris: I don't date, because sometimes when I actually think about having a boyfriend, I really try to visualize: "Okay, you have a boyfriend. If you have a boyfriend, how do you feel? Now what are you going to do?" Then I get freaked out. It's just too much, I think. Sometimes my friends are asking me about that: "Aren't you ever going to get married?" Sometimes I wonder about that, too. Where do I stand on the whole dating issue? For now, I can see that sometimes even just being friends with a guy is hard enough on its own. My thoughts sometimes drift in that area. There's a boy right now that I like, and sometimes I need to check myself, because my focus can get blurred. I read this book two years ago called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In that book, it was talking about how sometimes dating can be a hindrance. It can hinder your walk [with God], and really, what's the point of it? We were talking about it at Bible study before, and a friend of mine once said that unless you're planning on getting married within the next two years, you shouldn't be dating.
Connection: Do you feel that society is pressuring you to date? Why or why not?
Chrissy: Yes, because everything, especially T.V., is saying, "You're not fulfilled unless you date." They pressure you into so much stuff.
Emily: A little. I don't really know that they're pressuring, but they kind of say, "Well, why aren't you?" Everyone does it, so everyone just assumes you do it.
Connection: Does sexual temptation come up? How do you deal with it?
Chris: Yeah, it comes up a lot. I have to keep thinking about what would happen if I gave in.
Iris: I've thought about that before. I remember a speaker saying one time that he and his fiancee, at the time, were at her house for something and I think she came out with a towel on. He said he just ran. You have to flee from temptation when it's right in front of you. I really haven't been in that heavy of a situation before. What I pray and I hope that I would do is run and not compromise my values. All these emotions get bound up...somebody slept with somebody and then one person feels bad for leaving the other person, and then they don't even like each other anymore. That bond is not godly, because it's not in marriage.
Connection: How do you feel about violence in schools, and how does it affect you?
Chrissy: I think there's so much violence because everyone is screaming for attention. I don't think pulling a gun will solve anything. It affects me, because now my school has "lock down modes." They [police] keep everyone in class and go through the halls with search dogs. Sometimes they go through people's lockers if someone is suspected of having a weapon.
Chris: I think that the teachers aren't handling it correctly. If there's a fight at school, the people who were fighting only are punished for a few days, and then they [the kids] come back to school and do it again.
Connection: If you could change one thing about society, what would you change, and why?
Emily: I wish that everyone could be accepting of everything: race, weight, the way people look, the way people are-not so critical all the time about everything. It shouldn't be to the extreme of letting people do whatever they want, but it would just be nice if everything wasn't so under the microscope sometimes.
Chrissy: I think people should tell the truth. They don't mention God at all, and that needs to be brought back. If God is first, everything falls into place.
Iris: Especially in the public schools, I wish that the Bible could be taught in classes, and that it's not something that is extracurricular, but that it's in our classes. In the Bible, it says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he's old, he won't depart from it." That's true. I think if we had that in school, it would make a difference. What we need in our society is a reverence for God's word.
Connection: As a Christian, what do you live by?
Mike: Isaiah 41:30. "Those who walk with the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles." We should walk with the Lord. That's what our lives should be about.
Chrissy: Proverbs 3:5-6 and I Timothy 4:12. I have those written in my planner. I don't have to be ashamed that I'm a Christian. I wrote "Jesus" on my hand. At a youth convention, the pastor said that Jesus has us tattooed on His hand, and that's why I wrote His name on my hand. I don't have to be ashamed of anything. If I trust in the Lord, everything works out if it's in God's hands.
Iris: I know that right now, the battle that I'm going through is to have faith in God, and not forget what He's done. He is real, and He is the Creator of everything. What I try to stick to is having faith in Him and keeping my eyes on Him and being real before Him. I used to always wear a "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet, but how many times did I actually apply it? Did I wear it just to wear it? One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 5:1-2. "If you are God's children, live a life of love, just as Christ loved us." Just be found in God and don't give up and don't be lazy. [I want to] really carry the cross at school and in my life.