If there were a hall of fame for heroes, Johnny Cash would be in it.
Of course, his musical career is legendary and continues to stand the test of time. But what makes him a hero, that special quality he had, was his raw honesty. In his songs, in his story, and with his gritty style. His troubles are well-documented, but so is his remarkable change. He serves as a reminder that no matter how far down the road we’ve gone, it’s never too late to turn back around.
What follows are a collection of quotes that speak to what it means to be a man—a good sir, so to speak. Let’s learn from the Man in Black himself as he shares some of his wisdom with us.
On being yourself: “To love who you are and what you do, and to have faith in your ability to do it. You’ve got to know your limitations. I don’t know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.”
“I’m not talking about ego, and arrogance, and grandiose feelings. I’m talking about self-esteem and confidence. That’s vital: self-esteem and confidence.”
On what his marriage has meant to him: “We have a sharing marriage, and we share the road, we share the bedroom, we share the backstage, onstage, we share the music, the feeling, and the emotion, and the joy of it, you know. And the pain and the sadness of it. We share the love of our children. It would be terribly lonely not to have someone to share those things with me. And she’s not only a lady who I share my life with, but she may have been the person responsible for my still being alive. She and God. Because she came along at a time in my life that I was on self-destruct, and she saw what I was doing to myself and she helped bring me back up out of it. And we’ve fought and worked hard to keep our feet on the ground since then. But like I say, today is a good day.”
On how to succeed: “I could go by a lot of catch phrases like, ‘Know your own self,’ ‘To thine own self be true.’ Self-esteem and perseverance and confidence are all important, but the first thing is to know what you want to do. Set that goal out there and never lose sight of it, and work toward it. And know that there are going to be byways and sidetracks, but keep persevering and keep on, and do what you know that you want to do.”
On what his father meant to him: “My father was a man of love. He always loved me to death. He worked hard in the fields, but my father never hit me. Never. I don’t ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father. He was a good, strong man who provided for his family. That was his sole purpose in life when I was growing up.”
On the purpose of the human body: “People say, ‘Well, he wore that body out.’ Well, maybe I did. But it was to a good purpose. They should be thankful that I wore it out to the purpose I wore it out and that was writing and recording and touring and doing concerts. Everywhere I could possibly do them that I thought I might enjoy them. I thought people might enjoy me.”
On getting past your past: “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
On his fashion style: “I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion— against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas. Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkly clothes, and cowboy boots. I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I’ve worn black clothes ever since.”
On what advice he’d give to young folks: “Youth shouldn’t be clouded by any chemical or anything. Somebody my age can easily know that too, but youth is too wonderful a thing to mess with while you’ve got it.”
“Children, all your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate… I choose love.”
On how his faith fueled him: “The Bible is the source of the greatest joy. It’s a great moral stabilizer in a world that’s run amok. It’s an anchor for my own conscience, my own mind and my own life. It keeps my feet on the ground. It gives the answer to every problem you’re facing, if you look for it.”
“God loves us. That’s why he created us and gave us free will. Kind of like a farmer watching his chickens to see what they’re going to do. It desires that we all come back to him. That’s the way I think, that’s my God.”
Are there any other words from Johnny Cash that have inspired you?