St. Augustine tells a familiar tale of peer pressure. As a teenager, he was ashamed to be thought of as a “good boy,” so he ignored the advice of his mother. Many years later, he realized that God was speaking to him through her warnings.
Whose words were they, God, but yours that your poured into my ears by my mother, your faithful servant? None of them sank into my heart to change my behavior.
For she told me—I remember she warned me privately, with great concern— “Don’t commit fornication, but above all never defile another man’s wife.”
I thought these were just women’s words, and I would blush to obey them. But they were your words, and I didn’t know it. I thought you were keeping silent, and she was the one who was speaking. But you weren’t silent: you were speaking to me through her.
So I rushed on blindly. Among my peers I was ashamed to be less shameless when I heard them bragging about their disgraceful acts—boasting all the more according to the greatness of their baseness. I took pleasure in doing it, not just for the pleasure’s sake, but for the praise. Is there anything but vice that is worthy of dispraise? Yet I made myself worse than I was to keep from being dispraised! And when I hadn’t sinned as much as the really dissolute ones, I’d say that I had done what I hadn’t, so that I wouldn’t seem more miserable for being more innocent, or less respectable for being chaste.
–St. Augustine, Confessions, 2.3IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
Do I do things I shouldn’t just because I’m afraid of what people will think of me?
Do I try to recognize God’s words in the advice parents, priests, and other people worthy of my respect give me?
Father, you command us all to honor father and mother. Teach me to keep your commandment, and let me one day join my father and my mother in the happiness of the saints