What does How to Save a Life mean?

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The Fray: How to Save a Life Meaning

Song Released: 2006

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How to Save a Life Lyrics

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Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear...


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    Nov 27th, 2012 11:51pm report


    IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ THIS WHOLE REVIEW, just read: "The threemost important lines of the song."

    The song is a story with an impact, but the three lines are most key to give their message.


    This song is about a drug addiction that leads to a loss of a friendship. In the song, when he says he lost a friend, this could mean to death or lost his friendship, and when he says "how to save a life," he's focusing on the life of the true friend he was. The best friend he once was, but he changed.

    The talk, they have in the beginning of the song, is about any struggles that the friend is having (probobly a drug addiction that the friend doesn't beleive to be a problem). He knows better than his friend, and he just wants to help. He sits him down for a talk. (its more than just a talk, but you say its just a talk, hoping he cooperates) "He (the friend) stares politely right at you," meaning he's doing what you say, and listening, as you would want him to do (its polite), but "you stare right on through." you stares through him. you know that your friend isn't actually listening, and respecting your presence.

    He goes left and you stay right. (two different directions). Your direction of trying to help, yet he refuses, and stays in his direction. (where he ignores any true risks of the drugs he's using). As you struggle to help, he's not trying at all. You fear things will only get worse, and while your doing your best to help, you still blame yourself.

    "You begin to wonder why you came." You recodnize this, and you know that he's never tried to help himself before, and he wont now. Your efforts for your friend are worthless.

    You only try to help, and you blame yourself when he continues on his path of abusing drugs, and ignoring his addiction. You try but you can't do it alone. You blame yourself because you feel that you must have done something wrong. You feel you could have fixed it earlier. "where did i go wrong?" Your best friend is lost, and when you couldn't do enough, you struggle to find an answer of why things happened the way they did. you wrongly blame yourself.

    "I would have stayed up, with you all night, had i known, How to save a life"

    You try, and eventually let go. You give up on him because you dont know what else to do. You would have stayed with him all night (much longer), but you dont know what else to do to save him. You dont know how to save his life. (your friendship with him and his personality, from when he was the friend he used to be)

    "let him know that you know best, because after all you do know best." When someone is addicted, they are too blind by the addiction to notice. You know best (a friend not abusing the drug) because you noticed the effects. you know the risks, and the potential losses. he doen't. You do know best. It is a fact.

    You try to convince him that his addiction is a problem. You try to explain what he's loosing. You want to get past all his lies and ignorance (his defense), "without granting innocence" ...without telling the abuser, that he hasn't done anything wrong. the fact is that he has done something wrong, and he currently is. "the list of what is wrong" is all of the things that he's struggling with. Its the things wrong with him. the ways he's changed. They other things he could lose. The things on this list are the things you've been trying to tell him for so long.

    "Pray to god it cures you. And i pray to god it cures you" You wish that he has a moment of aknowledgement. You pray he realizes the pain he's had all along. you pray that his old personality, that he once had comes back. For the sake of him and the people who loved him (pray to god it cures you, tells the addicted hope he gets cured for his own sake -- I pray to god it cures you, is hopeing he's cured for the sake of the ones who care for him)


    "He begins to raise his voice, you lower yours and grant him one last choice"

    Again, all your efforts are worthless. He just gets more mad again. He fights everything you've said and doesn't think truely about anything so you stop fighting.

    You grant him one last choice:
    1)Drive until you lose the road
    2)Break with the one that follows

    This road is the same thing as earlier in the song, where he's going left and your going right.

    You granting one last choice, is you confronting your friend. You say you can either...
    1)Continue his life with his drugs, ignoring the problems and risks, and harm he gives others


    2)Listen to us, and know where trying to help. Stop the addiction (or at least make an attempt) and return to the ones that love you.

    "He will do one of two things"

    1)"He will admit to everything" (break with the [road] he follows) And get help, recodnize his issue and listen to the people helping him. ((Best case scenario))


    2)"he'll say he's just not the same" He'll convince he's not the same person. This would mostly be presented as, I've grown up, or Im not a little boy anymore-- just some way not thinking the drugs were ever a problem.

    ...he says hes just not the same

    "You being to wonder why you came"
    Its a painful cycle. The friend he is now is hardly a friend, but the person he used to be was one of the best friends youve had. You struggle to save him with worthless efforts. You recodnize that anything you do to help is pointless without him wanting to help himself.


    "Where did I go wrong , I lost a friend"

    -you blame yourself for your friends actions. You want to know what you did wrong to lose the friend you loved, but you will never know because you didn't do anything wrong.

    Leads to two...
    Because you feel its your fault, and you desire your old friend back, you go through all the troubles to try to help him.

    "You begin to wonder why you came (to help the friend)"

    -You know that all your efforts are worthless. He isn't helping you, or himself. You know, the friend you had, is lost. You give up on him.

    "I would have stayed up with you (the friend) all night, had i known how to save a life"

    -If you had known any way you could have helped, you would have. You gave all you could to help but its not enough. You feel guilt but theres nothing more you could have done.

    -If you knew something would have healed him, you would have done anything to do it. You don't want anything more than for your old friend to survive, but your old friend is already gone.

    His death, leaves all who loved him with the guilt, and loss, of who he used to be. The person he became doesn't care at all. The drugs killed his friend, and replaced him with an angry, ignorant person who you dont aknowledge as your friend.

    The story is about the loss of a close friend. He isn't just lost. he is lost twice. They lose his personality, and try to get him back, but the fact is, the person he was is gone. The person he becomes, leads him to a premature death, and they lose him again. When he dies, it feels like you have lost the same person a second time.

    The morals of the story:
    1)Dont do drugs
    2)Do not give up on helping friends, with an addiction.
    3)Don't blame yourself, when you couldn't do anything more to save him


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    Nov 27th, 2012 11:59pm report

    Its hard to grasp the true meaning of this song. Its personal to his life. We can figure out the message, but its hard for us to truely understand the meaning of this song without sympathy.

    We recodnize parts of it, but its just not possible to understand completely. Its more than just a message, and a song. More than just a story.

    The song gives humans a feeling. This feeling is too much to put into words. It has the combined emotions, of regret, unclarity, confusion, frustration, but just these few words aren't capable of giving that emotion of true loss.

    Loosing somone close has more than just a pain and regret. The song "How to save a life," gives listeners the feeling, and struggle of loosing someone really close.


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    Nov 6th, 2012 11:16pm report

    It is my opinion that it has to do with someone regretting the fact that they ignored someone else with issues, whatever the issues may be. They look back and see it could have been all so different .

    My uncle has been on a rough road, which he chose himself, he lived with us (me and my parents) for 5 years and my mom practically stayed up with him all night. I like to think she saved his and other people's lives because she stopped him from driving drunk and going out with friends that had a bad influence on him. He drove while intoxicated starting shortly after he got his first license. He no longer lives with us because of his actions. I think he got off way too easy, though thankfully he did not hurt anyone. MADD and AA was just a game to him. Some thing he participated in to get a lighter sentence. All he got was a light slap on the wrist and 40 days in jail after 5 DWI's. He even still went to work!
    His favorite thing to say to get people to feel sorry for him was “It could have been all so different". I think that is the message this song is trying to give.


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    Nov 3rd, 2012 11:35pm report

    I heard from some its about the lead singer who was mentoring a boy who wanted to commit suicide due to drugs and he hung himself one night with some lyrics to this song i can find any evidence to this so if anyone does contact my at my email: rperales_14@yahoo.com.


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    Oct 31st, 2012 10:58am report

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    Oct 21st, 2012 10:33pm report

    I Think It's About A Person who has broken up with their Boy/Girl friend and the person they broke up with is trying to commit suicide or has commited suicide and he is trying to tell you how to save a life.


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    Sep 27th, 2012 9:12am report

    I don't know that much about The Fray but I've read that it's about how Slade was trying to help a drug-addicted teen. For me, this song is about that but more. It's about a friend who has some sort of mental illness (the drug-addicted teen most likely suffered in that way) and how much as they slide down the path of illness, you have to watch and try to help- if you get it right, you save a life. But if you get it wrong... I guess, for me, since I've had friends who've been ill, it's just about the process of losing someone and the struggle we face in helping them, in saving their life. The song tells a tale about Slade saving a life by helping this teen and the process but it tends to represent their experiences of the observer to a mental illness instead of the victim.
    Have to say, it's a goddam brilliant song. It absolutely captures the emotions of "saving a life", so to speak. I love it because it lets people empathise who have felt that way. This is why I love The Fray.


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    Sep 9th, 2012 9:59am report

    To me, this is about losing a friend to suicide. That feeling when you feel that it's your fault not noticing earlier, that moment when everything collapse on you...... it's just too painful. The regret for not caring a bit more, for not listening for a bit more, for not understanding...... it's a painful reality.


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    Jul 23rd, 2012 7:58am report

    For me personally this song is about the guy confronting his friend about a serious problem. it might be just me because recently i had to confront one of my best buddies about a lying problem that was getting really bad. it was exactly the same thing as in the song, it was really hard to get him to talk and it was really frustrating. i think the first verse is about addressing the problem, then the second verse is about the guys friend getting defensive about his problem while it's getting harder for the guy to stick to his argument but he knows he has to help the friend who's in this downward spiral. of course the singers friend doesn't have to have a lying problem like my buddy but it seems like it's something like that, like lying or drugs or self harming. i know there's an official meaning but that's just what it means for me


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    Jul 10th, 2012 7:46pm report

    The song how to save a life is originally about the lead singer. He help someone along who had a bad time with drugs, alcohol, or suicidal thoughts. I remember this song because I personally believe that he wrote it not only because of who ever he helped but to send a message like hey! If you know someone who is hurting themselves or killing themselves by drugs alcohol,ect. Then you can't stand there and not do anything. Help those people. Even I you don't know them. Help them because if you don't and they pass away them you'll be scared and always wonder could I have done something more to help? That answer would be yes. Always I someone would have told me they were doing something or having thoughts I would have stopped them and gotten them help no matter what.. Even if it were my best friend and they hated me I'd rather have them alive and hate me then dead an love me...


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    Jun 2nd, 2012 6:20pm report

    An older sister is watching her little 8 year year old sister die. She thinks to her self as she looks at her sister, just about to die " I would have stayed up with you all night had I known how to save a life " Her sister ends up dying at the young age of 8. Her parents and now the only child in the family, wished that they would have done something different. But as they watch God walk away with there youngest, they kneel down in pray. After, they are fading away. There little girl waving goodbye, and all there parents are wishing is that they would have known how to save a life. There little 8 year old daughters life.


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    Apr 13th, 2012 4:29pm report

    I interpreted this as a friend that has schizophrenia. It kinda sounds like that when it talks about the voices and when you get left she stays right. Also the struggles with staying up all night worrying what you might do next. This is what my health teacher and what the band talks about in a interview with E.


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    Mar 19th, 2012 3:27pm report

    The song makes me think of domestic violence even though it probably isn't, but some of the lines remind me of breaking up with an abuser

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