…or a dead one? It turns out that the poster was warning young people especially about the perils of solvent abuse. I think there was a help-line and/or a website for further advice and support mentioned on the poster but I wasn’t close enough to see exactly.

It took me a few minutes to realise what was behind that somewhat surreal question. Of course I’d rather be alive but I’m not a chicken. “Am I chicken?” Now I get it. A friend, or so-called friend, might dare you to do something that has an element of risk about it. They may play on your desire to be part of the crowd or sense of self-esteem. “If you don’t do this [smoke the cigarette/sniff the glue/try the drug/cross the tracks etc] then you’re chicken”. And so the poster asks “Would you rather be a live chicken or a dead one?” because in the examples just given there is every likelihood of harm and the high risk of killing yourself, albeit unintentionally. It can be hard to say “no” because the fact remains that some people do actually get away with it – many don’t.

Resisting peer-pressure is not always straight forward. So much less stressful to go with the crowd than to stand out and be different. If you are different you are more likely to be noticed and risk being mocked, bullied or worse. The point I’m getting to is that it can actually take more courage to be “chicken” than to give in to your friends. I would rather be chicken than road-kill.

During this season of Lent many Christians will have heard the stories of Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the wilderness and of his temptations by Satan. The bait in those temptations are that they sound plausible except that Satan is trying to appeal to Jesus’ pride, vanity and impatience. Because Jesus puts faithfulness to God first he does not give in to Satan.

The temptations that are hardest to refuse are the ones that sound plausibly good. It is rare that we will be tempted to do something obviously evil – and, if we were, at least it will be a fairly straight-forward matter to recognise. When we are with our friends we can face conflicting demands: loyalty versus honesty, belonging versus integrity, etc and it is easy to make the wrong choice.

It takes courage to say “no”, especially to our friends.