When I was in middle school, we were required to read the book, “The Outsiders.” It was a coming of age story set in the 60s and told from the point of view of Ponyboy Curtis. A young man growing up on the rough side of town who, at one point, finds himself on the run with his best friend Johnny. At the time, they were afraid of being blamed for the murder of another boy who had bullied them in a park the night before.
At their hideout, the two friends get the chance to see a beautiful sunset, and Ponyboy is motivated to recite a poem by Robert Frost called, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” The premise of which is that even the most beautiful things cannot last forever. Everything in life has a beginning and an end.
Later in the book, Johnny remembers the special moment the two friends shared, and with his dying words, says, “Stay Golden, Ponyboy.”
What did Johnny mean? And why is this significant to this blog entry?
Johnny saw Ponyboy as something good in an otherwise ugly world. Johnny wanted his friend to realize that fact and to remember to stay that way.
Johnny’s words to Ponyboy is good advice for all of us. There will always be times in our lives where we can either stay true to who we are, or compromise ourselves for a purpose that does not align with our values.
As kids, this happens a lot. Sometimes, in order to fit in with a certain crowd of people, someone might lie, cheat, steal, make fun of someone else, or maybe even physically harm another person. And, I’m almost certain that in those moments, one’s instincts are advising against such behaviors, but they get done anyway.
Also, as many of us know, moments that challenge our character don’t just go away when we become adults, either. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.
So what do you do?
Remember Johnny’s words to his friend. Stay true to who you are. Don’t compromise yourself, or your integrity. Trust me, it’s easier that way.
Admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly, I confess I have failed this test on more than one occasion. And it's something that troubles me, even today. In all the good that I try and do for others, in my mind, I always manage to come back to those moments when I failed someone because I compromised my own personal values.
There have not been many occasions where I failed the integrity test, but I have failed it. And, by the way, I have learned from it. But for someone who is trying to do good in the world, both for himself, and others, those failures still bother me.
So, do as Johnny says, and “Stay Golden.” Don’t cross the line and test your character. Stay true to it and the values you hold dear, and you’ll be just fine. You’ll maintain your self-respect, you’ll earn the respect of others, and you’ll be that much better for it.
“Stay Golden, Ponyboy.”