Peer dependent. Those two words were the strongest insult of my high school life. No matter what happened, being peer dependent was never something to become.
This phrase is particularly popular among homeschooling families who lean towards a strong family structure. Please don't misunderstand, I am completely for following the Biblical model in regards to families (well in regards to everything, really). I would argue, however, that we are designed by God to be peer, as well as family, dependent.
What is peer dependency? To sum it up, basically it is a strong need for affirmation of one's self from one's peers (those of the same demographic, age, social situation, etc.). Some can take it to the point of an addiction, and often spend their waking hours trying to decide how to best improve one's Facebook persona or other such actions. The solution to such an addiction has been to practice a form of isolation. Or highly controlled exposure. This is when families keep to themselves and when they venture into the world, their friends are those who share identical beliefs. Thus, the children grow up to become exactly what their parents envision them to be.
Question: what happens when these children emerge into the world and are questioned for their beliefs? Most will answer with a response that lacks a Biblical basis and smacks of cultism. I'm not saying this to step on people's toes or be mean. I've been there and I've seen how others respond to me when I reply that way. And then there's the dreaded "friends" question. Do you have any friends? Well certainly! All of us homeschoolers are highly socialized (because we have to disprove that myth) and can list 100 people off the top of our head.
My next question is, is there anyone of those friends who have the knowledge of you or the relationship necessary to confront sin or encourage you to grow spiritually? The level of friendship required for that goes far beyond discussing knitting techniques or even what last Sunday's sermon was about.
If we go back to the original creation account, Eve was created for Adam because "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). The rest of the verse proceeds to complete the argument for traditional marriage, but that's not the point. The point is Adam needed another person. Yes, God is all sufficient for everything we need, but He can fulfill those needs through someone else. Part of the argument against peer relationships is because we shouldn't need anyone else besides our immediate family, but that's not true.
Proverbs 27 gives a wealth of information about friends and how to be a friend and what to look for in a friend.... And it's not talking about family. Friends should be willing to rebuke you. Their wounds are faithful, but they also build you up and sharpen you. This passage even rebukes those obnoxious morning people friends!
Ok, people need people, and part of this includes friends who are not family... what's the problem?
Well, the idea of dependency conveys a concept of need. So, if we need friends... does that make us peer dependent?
Like all good things, wisdom is necessary. I fully acknowledge that those of my peer level, early twenty something college students, are not always the most wise. But I also know how far to trust their counsel. I know when they are faithfully wounding me and sharpening me, trying to help me grow. I know that likely there are some decisions and problems that will arise that they will not have the ability to help with. But I also know that they are praying for me, and that intercession is so precious to me.
So, is peer dependency a failure? Or is it the admission of a common weakness wherein God has provided for us?