A. Shua wouldn’t have jumped out of the canoe under other circumstances. He knew it was wrong. This time, he was influenced by the values of Mort and his friends and started to act like them. There’s a real pull on a person to adopt the values of those around them.
Q. What can someone do to avoid being dragged down by the negative values and behavior of the people around him?
A. Just being aware that he is susceptible to their influence is a step in the right direction. It will help him stay strong and not be affected. Still, it’s very worthwhile to make every effort to keep a safe distance from people whose behavior isn’t right and choose friends with healthy values.
Age 10 and up
Q. If someone acts wrongly because his environment influenced him, would you say that he’s responsible for his actions?
A. One unique feature of a human being is his bechira, his power of free choice. This means that in any given situation, Hashem gives us the ability to choose whether to act according to healthy proper values or not. While someone in a difficult environment does have more of a challenge to overcome its influences, nevertheless, in the end, he is responsible for his actions.
Q. Is there anything a person who finds himself in a negative environment can do to have a positive impact on the people around him?
A. Ironically, one of the most effective things a person can do to change his society for the better is to change himself for the better. Just as one is influenced by his environment, he influences it as well. Each human being is a spiritual powerhouse whose every positive decision to act with proper values can literally make the world a better place.