Sunday, June 3, 2007

Everybody's Doing It

I really thought that I was going to make it through life unacquainted with the unpleasant business of peer pressure. Nobody ever tried to make me pilfer a lip gloss from a drugstore or go to a party at which a keg was the main attraction. No one could be bothered. Once, at a friend's house, my friend's brother said he was going to smoke a joint and asked if I cared to join him. My guess is it was just to see my reaction. "No thank you," I replied, tickled by the sheer novelty of even being given the opportunity to turn down an illicit activity.

But today peer pressure crept up on me insidiously in the last place I expected it: church.

One of the things I appreciate about the church that we attend is that they continue to do things one would expect from a small church, even though many, many people attend. During the prayer, congregants are mentioned and prayed for by name. And today's service concluded with one of these touches. All of the high school seniors came up and introduced themselves and said what school they had graduated from and what their plans were for the fall.

This was nice. A little tedious, as the crowd decided to clap after each student spoke. Even the students seemed less than thrilled, waiting with eyes rolled up for the previous speaker's applause to die down before beginning to speak.

Who knows which overzealous, overcaffeinated person in the crowd started it. But, as the applause wore on, somebody saw fit to stand. The next thing you know, people are popping up all over the place. And I am filled with consternation.

I feel I have done my part up to this point by smiling and clapping. And graduating from high school and going on to college is a very good thing. But a standing ovation? A standing ovation should be reserved for something so spectacular that it sweeps you off your seat. I hate the abuse of the standing ovation. The inner turmoil I was experiencing was fantastic.

If I stood up it would ONLY be because everyone else was, not because I thought it was warranted. And I just couldn't do it, though just sitting there made me feel like I had the word "curmudgeon" emblazoned on my forehead. I'm not too thrilled about the fact that my big opportunity to take a stand (or a sit, as the case was) was over something totally benign. It's not like standing would have endorsed anything bad. But, for heaven's sake. What does this say about our expectations for young people? Hooray! You graduated from high school! Special, special, special!

And it is. I smiled and clapped because it's an exciting time for a young person. But can you imagine any other situation in which you heard someone had graduated from high school and was going on to college, and your natural reaction would be to rise to your feet and applaud? People would think you were being sarcastic.

Perhaps some day I'll be given the opportunity to show some backbone in a situation where it really matters. Perhaps some day I'll be mature enough that the thought of God deciding to refine my character in that fashion doesn't scare me.

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