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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    Sep 10th, 2009 9:55pm report

    i, as well as a few other people, think it's about suicide.
    think about it, "i would have stayed up with you all night had i know how to save a life." i know the REAL meaning is about the kid in the camp and all, but when i first heard this, it immediately clicked for me. if someone knew about the suicidal thoughts, they would have saved the person's life. its like a guide to what to do if you are having those thoughts.


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    Sep 3rd, 2009 9:34am report

    i took this as a friend who is suicidal and you try to help him, by talking to him, but he isnt working with you. and your afraid and you blame yourself.
    you let him knw that you know whats good for him, because you are obviously thinking straighter than he is. you try to ignore his excuses and defenses, but you dont let him believe that he is innocent and that this isnt a problem. you point out what is wrong with the picture. and you pray for him, you pray that he hears where your coming from and that he knows how important he is to you.
    he gets mad, you stay cool. he will eather admit he has a problem, or say he's not like you and other people, that you dont understand.
    and you lost him. you were mad at him and you couldnt help him in the way that he needed help. you tried everything you could, but you just couldnt help.

    i wish you would have talked to me alex. i wish i knew there was a problem. i wish i had known how to save your life my friend.


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    Aug 31st, 2009 8:34pm report

    Many prior interpretations have this pretty close. Here's some additional detail from an interview with Isaac Slade:
    Well there’s a group home here in Denver called Shelterwood (now located in KC, MO and Branson, MO), and it takes in kids who’ve had a tough time; their parents don’t want to send them to jail, but they can’t keep track of them
    themselves… A friend of mine was actually the president for that particular school, so he asked Joe and I to come up for one of their weekend retreats… I was paired up with one kid in particular. His story was just amazing – all the relationships that he had put at risk because of the decisions he made, and eventually losing the relationships…the cost of his lifestyle and his choices, and kind of relating them to my own life and my own stories;
    seeing all the relationships I’ve threatened for one reason or another. It was a really inspiring weekend.


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    Aug 25th, 2009 8:32am report

    In my eyes, I see it as the speakers, friend who has commited suicide due to a bad relationship or something. So for arguments sake, say that the speakers friend has broke up with his girlfriend. The speaker goes round to his friends home to comfort him. His friend is distraught but convinces the speaker that he is fine so the speaker leaves. Then, the friend kills himself. Hense the lyrics 'Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend. Somewhere in the bitterness and if i'd have stayed up with you all night, I'd have known how to save a life.'

    I feel this is a better fit to the lyrics than the drug problem. I may be wrong though.


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    Aug 2nd, 2009 8:51pm report

    To me the song How to Save a Life by The Fray, is about suicide, or even a major drug problem. To me the song describes how people want to help out this person from depression or drugs, to get their mind out of thinking about crossing over to the place where it's hard to come back and taking that path. It is also how hard people try to help them but sometimes it just isn't enough and then you loose that friend.


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    Jul 27th, 2009 7:48pm report

    It's about suicide because it says " if I stayed up with you all night then I'd know how to save a life" I'm guessing his friend wanted to kill himself while the fray was sleeping


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    Jul 23rd, 2009 7:12am report

    This is how I see the song. It's obvious that even though it is a guy singing he is singing through a woman. She has a man than she deeply cares about and they are intimate, he has serious problems, but unknown. She sticks by him, has tried and tried and probably has not been treated well by him but still so much cares about him to get to this point where she realizes that she cannot help him nor be a victim to him. Therefore, she has to give him up even though she cares for him deeply and is feeling guilt that she cannot save his life.


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    May 10th, 2009 5:03am report

    I think it is about a girl who doesnt like how her relationship is going with her boyfriend, and so ends it. she then realizes... or never forgot... that she still loves this person, 'and begins to wonder why she came'. So whil he goes left, she goes toward the window on the right, after she jumps, this boy believes it was his fault that she killed herself, and realizes he was the one who could have prevented had he been better to her, had he known this was going to happen, he could have saved her life if he would have payed attention and 'stayed up with her all night'


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    May 6th, 2009 5:44pm report

    the singer lost a friend. they commited suicide, and he feels that he could have helped them if he would have known how.


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    Mar 27th, 2009 3:48am report

    I can relate to this song coz I have a friend that talks to me about her serious problems at school(W.S.H.S)-first sports school.. newai I really don't think its only about someone taking drugs but also other ways of committing suicide.. This girl she talks to me, only, about killing herself coz of personal issues. And I try to help her but sometimes get into arguments but I just let her know that shez right..right now 27march09 I haven't seen her in a while she hasn't spoken to me and I wonder 'where did I go wrong'...........


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    Mar 8th, 2009 3:39pm report

    I think this song is about a girl trying to talk to her boyfriend about their relationship changing but her wanting it to stay the same. She trys to tell him to stop changing and he wont listen to what she has to say. Then she starts to wonder why she even tried to help their relationship at all and she gets mad and leaves. Then she realized that she didnt have to act that way and could have saved him from what he was turning into but not forcing him to make a choice. But thats just my point of view (:


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    Feb 18th, 2009 2:07pm report

    When I was like 6 years old my uncle killed himself because he and his wife broke up, and I think about that when I hear this song, so to me this is about a married couple that has a lot of issues and is on the road of divorce, it just fits right in.

    The woman in this relationship wanted to talk it out with the husband, "Step one you say we need to talk
    He walks you say sit down it's just a talk". She thinks they've gone onto two different paths, and she is afraid of blaming him, "As he goes left and you stay right
    Between the lines of fear and blame"

    Now the chorus is like a future thing, or lets say the verses are from the past.
    "Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
    Somewhere along in the bitterness
    And I would have stayed up with you all night
    Had I known how to save a life"
    Is like how she feels now, since he commited siucide.

    "Let him know that you know best
    Cause after all you do know best
    Try to slip past his defense
    Without granting innocence
    Lay down a list of what is wrong
    The things you've told him all along
    And pray to God he hears you
    And pray to God he hears you"
    Again back at the verse, she tells him what is wrong, things they've argued about all through the dark time of their marriage, and he doesn't think she's right, so she tries to get past his denial, without making it sound like he's the "good guy". When she's said what's wrong, she hopes he listens her.

    "As he begins to raise his voice
    You lower yours and grant him one last choice
    Drive until you lose the road
    Or break with the ones you've followed
    He will do one of two things
    He will admit to everything
    Or he'll say he's just not the same
    And you'll begin to wonder why you came"
    She gives him an ultimatum, trying to get him to change so that they can be happy again, but he thinks that's impossible.

    So they break up and he gets too devastated and kills himself, so she feels like in the chorus, that it's her fault.

    That's what I think of when I hear this song. But as many other people said (including the writer), I think it's about a drug addict. But this was what this song is to me so.


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    Feb 15th, 2009 2:52pm report

    It's about a person who lost a friend because the friend commited suicide. The person is feeling guilty throughout the song, believing they could have stopped their friend.


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    Dec 23rd, 2008 12:01pm report

    The song is about two friends who were close to each other, but chose
    different paths, and one makes a wrong choice. The other friend confronts
    the other, and the bad choice maker is addicted to drugs, ect. So the good friend
    decides to "save" his/her life.


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    Aug 26th, 2008 8:05am report

    Personal interpretation: The love of my life is very ill. He will either die or live in a way that will never really be the same. In this song, I am analytically "talking" to him. "As he goes left and you stay right," I try to stay on the path we've been following, yet his deteriorating health leads him in another direction we were not originally headed for. "Between the lines of fear and blame, (I) begin to wonder why I came." I wonder why I'm here in this position. I am scared of losing him and blame myself, even him sometimes, for why this is happening to us.

    "Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend somewhere in the bitterness. And I would have stayed up with you all night had I known how to save a life." What happened to us, what could I have possibly done to bring this upon myself, upon him? I've lost him already, really, my best friend in this "bitterness," this terrible situation. Even if he lives, he won't be the same person as before. I would do anything to save him, to save us, if I just knew what to do.
    "Let him know that you know best, Cause after all you do know best. Try to slip past his defense without granting innocence." I continue to tell him everything will be okay, because, after all, this is the way I have to believe. He tells me though that I may be wrong and I don't really know what's going on. I ignore him, because I have to continue to believe. I continue to tell him he can't give up and that all of this is just temporary. I choose to believe that positive thinking can only help us, help him, and "I pray to God he hears (me)," even though I am silently doubtful (the desperateness in the tone and repetition of this lyric....).

    "As he begins to raise his voice .... break with the ones you've followed." He argues with me mainly about my not knowing what it's really like to be him right now. He's angry, and I let him be angry. I agree I don't really know. But he can choose to follow his own road or continue to follow me and believe that everything will be okay.

    "He will do one of two things....wonder why you came." He will choose to believe in my interpretation or his interpretation of the current situation ("say he's just not the same"). Since he will still not make a decision about this, "(I) begin to wonder why I came." Why I even continue with all of this....
    Again, "where did I go wrong" and how can I save him. The repetition and tone indicate desperation: I'm so f%^$#@(^ desperate to do whatever to save him, to have things be as much as possible the way they were before. And, finally, I'll just do anything to keep him alive... We have 2 children together 15 and 3. I can't do this by myself. I need him in any way possible. I do what I can to stay positive because it keeps me sane. But, please, please, please let me know "how to save a life."

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