U2: With Or Without You Meaning
Song Released: 1987
With Or Without You Lyrics
see the thorn twist in your side
i wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you
With or without you
With or without you
Through the storm we...
anonymous Sep 27th, 2007 9:31pm report
I can see why everyone relates this song to a christian with lines like "See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side" that however is not enough in my opinion to support that. I believe this song is more related to a woman. "Sleight of hand and twist of fate" Sleight of hand is another way of saying trickery twisting fate. Talking about a love deceiving him/whoever. "You give yourself away" is saying to me she is with another man and he/or whoever the song is about doesn't want that. Now that she has been with another man you get "I can't live
With or without you" He is still waiting wishing things had been different. However, fate is set and he now feels that he cannot live without her as it has always been yet now he cannot live with her always thinking about the other lover she had chosen over him. Their is a lot more in the song to support this. Also suppose that "See the stone set in your eyes" is relating to her decision to chose another man. You can say I am wrong but this is how this song relates to me because I have lived with this situation for many years.
anonymous Nov 13th, 2006 11:54am report
This song is simply about a person who can't live with or without a person. If they live with them - they cause grief "thorn twist in your side" & "you give it all but I want more" relates to him always finding faults in the person they love. Its about a girl that gives all she can....But was never enough for the man.....Now he is lost without her....He has nothing left. Dvr
anonymous Sep 20th, 2006 9:11pm report
This song has always seemed to be about somebody proposing to his wife.
See the stone set in your eyes = he's looking at the reflection of the diamond ring in here eyes. Also "setting a stone" refers to how a diamond is placed in/on the ring
See the thorn twist in your side = refers to the "bride" being unsure. You could also say it refers to twisting a ring to fit on a finger if the ring is too small.
I wait for you = waiting for her to answer
Sleight of hand and twist of fate = another reference to holding her hand and twisting the ring onto a finger.
On a bed of nails she makes me wait = nails, another hand refence. Also on a bed of nails means he's nervous.
And I wait without you = she hasnt said yes yet, so he waits alone.
With or without you = he's in limbo. He's taken a step but she hasnt said yes or no yet.
Through the storm we reach the shore
you give it all but I want more = they have been through tough times together and even though she loves him, he wants more, for her to be his wife.
I can't live
with or without you = he just wants an answer
my hands are tied = tie the knot
anonymous Nov 18th, 11:46am report
This song is about the yin and yang of life, for instance shadow cannot exist without light. We need darkness as much as the light. This song resonates with Daoist metaphysics. In Daoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole.
kooljohn176 Oct 11th, 10:28pm report
A great song out of the great ''Joshua Tree'' album that can have sevral meanings to people, not only about a difficult relationship towards a union between a man and a woman [forbidden or not], but it can also capture a time when the Nazarenes were caught in the middle to hold up a godly relationship in the old law by staying in the Jewish synagogue tradition while believing in the Messiah that came in the name of Jesus as the son of God that was foretold by John the Baptist who was waiting and baptizing in the Jordan river. After the crucifiction of Jesus the Nazarenes became one of the first Christian sects that still obeyed the Jewish laws, but became stuck, like the saying goes between a Rock[Jesus as the stumbling Stone] that was set in our eyes to see, and a hard place to live in, because the Nazarenes still wanted to abide in the old laws with absorbing the Sabbath and all, but were outcast cause they believed and also practice the light of humility for all in the teaching of Jesus as the Messiah that was foretold to come by the elders even before John the Baptist. This also put doubt in the mind of the Pagans and Gentiles that came to Jesus teachings and not to fully trust the Nazarenes because they were in the beginning obeying the laws of the old, in thaught by the Pharasee Priests in the synagogues to live accordingly with their beliefs only when it came to God, and in the long run it became very difficult to live with or without the Messiah[God] for the Nazarenes.
anonymous Aug 5th, 2014 8:12pm report
I see this in my opinion as a song about loving someone and wanting to be with them. You are not with them because you cant be, but they never leave mind. They never leave your mind as hard as you try to deny or get them off your mind. "I cant live with or without you".
anonymous Jun 10th, 2014 6:09am report
It's my belief that this song represents a close friend of the songwriter who's been under the influence of drugs. With lines such as "you give yourself away" being used as a motif. The rest of the song is about the pain the songwriter is going through watching his friend turn into a mess.
anonymous Feb 5th, 2014 2:37pm report
I honestly think it's about man... I mean when I first heard it- it reminded me of BellDom which is like a Muse romance.
It's like "sleigh to hand and twist of fate, on a bed of nails she makes me wait, and I wait with or without you" Makes it sound like he's saying it was just a twist of fate that made his lover of the same sex. And his girlfriend/wife doesn't make him as happy and he needs the other man. Same with the my body bruised she got me...""
In that case "I can't live with or without you" could mean he isn't PERMITTED to live with the other man- and he can't live without him...
And "You'll give yourself away" could mean he will end up revealing the fact that they're together...
But that's just my opinion. *shrugs*
anonymous Apr 22nd, 2013 4:13pm report
I see it more as a person that’s so in love with someone yet it seems like the woman keeps hurting him so like for example I think the woman is a prostitute needing money and it keeps hurting him because she’s giving her love away to other men and so he doesn’t know how to deal with the facts that it’s so torturous of her choices that he truly wants to leave her but he loves her so much he feels like he can’t live without her but at the same time he knows he can’t live like this being in love with who won’t let him help through her money problems just seem like she’s stubborn and yet even though they fight he still loves her so much he feels like he’ll die without her and lose the best love he’s ever felt
anonymous Jun 25th, 2012 6:46pm report
This song is one of the best songs written in the hole 80`s.
However, Bono is not willing to explain much what the lyrics really is about.
To me and what I have understood, is "and you give yourself away" how he feels about giving him self to the press, it is also about how he could hurt the band. Damage made to the band in the way they are giving to much of them self without really now the cons. of it....
anonymous Jun 7th, 2012 6:01pm report
You got it all wrong!
the song is about the emerald island, Ireland! Think out of the proverbial box!
anonymous Mar 13th, 2012 3:31am report
The song is about a woman who does not want/afraid to commit.
"See the stone set in your eyes" Cold and firm in that she won't commit but 'the thorn twisting in her side" is that she loves him and is struggling to maintain her safe distance from him.
"Sleight of hand and twist of fate" in life's irony he has fallen madly in love with a woman who won't give her heart totally to him. He waits...hoping that she will give him, her heart.
"Through the storm we reach the shore" Despite the tempestuous situation of being at such odds, they reach an understanding. She gives what she can, but it is not enough for him.
"You give it all but I want more"
Still he waits and hopes the situation will change.
"With or without you"
He doesn't feel that she is 'with' him because she has not fully committed and feels he is 'without' her because she is not fully committed.
She 'gives' of herself to others she is not committed to as well. Giving herself 'away' rather than to him.
His hands are tied because the decision to commit to him can only be made by her. His body bruised, hurting because he is waiting for her to make this decision to finally commit to him.
He's done all he can, now he truly has nothing left to win and nothing left to lose, because although they are a couple, he doesn't feel that she is really 'with him'.
anonymous Mar 6th, 2012 3:13am report
This song is about sin, which Bono personifies in the feminine. And though Bono believes in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he is unable to break his connection with sin. The song opens with Bono First addressing his connection to Christ with a reference of the stone set in your eyes providing a powerful image of both a stone placed over the eyes of the crucified Christ to cover them for burial, and the thorn twist in your side referencing the spear jabbed into Christ's side to ensure he was dead.
Then Bono proceeds to the power of sin and temptation...slight of hand and twist of fate...on a bed of nails she makes me wait. Bono is agonizing over his temptation to sin.
Return again to Christ in the next verses...Bono turns to his savior to fight back the sin with the powerful and familiar image of Christ calming the stormy seas and bringing the ship to shore.
Bono exclaims with or without you...with or without you...i cant live with or without you. He knows he cant live with sin, but he cant give it up either. His desire is too strong. You give yourself away being an increasing reference to his enslavement to sin, a common Biblical analogy.
Now the conclusion...my hands are tied my body bruised...he is loosing the battle to sin. Jesus tells Peter that his hands would be bound and he would be taken away to death. Death is the ultimate consequence of sin. You give yourself away to sin...she leaves you with nothing To win, and nothing left to lose.
He cant live with sin, but he cant let go of it either.
anonymous Feb 27th, 2012 2:07am report
That's how i see it, cause i've experienced it both sides.
anonymous Feb 27th, 2012 2:47am report
I see it in a few ways, but this one makes most sense.
''I can't live, with or without you''
It could mean he can't live with her 'cause they had a wrong place and a wrong time, they couldn't be there fo each other, him for her example if he was really depressed and for that reason couldn't show her how much he really loved/ cared for her, and she tried to reach out for him but couldn't get through.. And that hurt her so much that she left from this situation and now she's gone with someone else which explains the line ''and you give yourself away'' ..
.. and ''can't live without you'' means he still loves her freaking badly and he's lost without her love and going mentally crazy.
''see the stone set in your eyes'' she's had enough of it and doesn't care nomore so her eyes become emotionless, cold.
''see the thorn twist in your side'' cause she doesn't care anymore he's unable to hurt her no longer.
''I wait for you'' He's waiting a time to get a hold of himself so that he could win her back.
anonymous Dec 15th, 2011 12:33pm report
This song is from the perspective of someone in a situation where they are unable to be with the woman they love, yet they can't live without her.
However, I see how there are biblical references in the lyrics. I heard once that the Edge thought the song would be played in churches, of all places!
anonymous Nov 10th, 2011 11:10pm report
This is the song somebody I love posted the day after I ended it with him. Coincidence or not I have no idea , but it seems to fit our situation.
He lives in another country , and he is only 20 , I am 35. I am also in a relationship with another man and have a child . I fell for this younger guy but I wish had never met him. He really is like a drug : no good for me but so hard to give up. I'm not sure I can ever really forget him , only time will tell.
For me this song is about impossible love : being so in love with somebody but knowing that being with them just won't work, because of the circumstances , but being without them is just as inconceivable because you love them so much.
'See the stone set in your eyes' : when I met him in the summer , I was with my boy friend . I saw him searching my eyes for a clue but I had made up my mind that I would not leave my boy friend for him. He is too young, it just wouldn't work .
'See the thorn twist in you side.. I wait for you ' : he can see I am not 100% happy in my current relationship. He waits for me to make a decision , ' sleight of hand etc ' , he thinks because I wont leave my bf I am using, deceiving him , that I can't really love him.
'On a bed of nails she makes me wait' , the waiting is torture. He tries to get close to me but I keep him at arms length :( He waits without me , he is alone.
'Through the storm we reach the shore' We meet where he works , on a beach , and I am with my boy friend and child. I guess he realizes he wants more , all of me , not a shared love.
'You give it all , but I want more' I do everything I can to show how much I care about him , that I love him , but it's not enough , he wants all of me but I can't give him that , so he cant live with me , or without.
'My hands are tied' , he feels powerless. It's a no win situation.
'And you give your self away .' I guess he thinks I am using him , that I just want him for one thing .
Well he is wrong. I love him with a passion I have never felt for any one else. If he was older , or I was younger , then yeah , no problem. They say age doesn't matter , but after two years of knowing him I can see it does matter. And it wouldn't last. I'm afraid of getting hurt I guess, so I make do with a half love.
Or may be I'm reading too much into this song !
The lyrics ostensibly describe a troubled relationship between two lovers, although the lyrics have been interpreted in religious contexts. The Washington Post interpreted the song as both an acerbic love song and a tune lamenting the moral contradictions one faces with their religious faith. Toby Creswell echoed these sentiments, saying it "can be read as a song about either marital romance or spiritual need". Bono explained that the lyrics had romantic intentions, saying, "there's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other. One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do." In 1987, Bono explained that "And you give yourself away" lyric refers to how he sometimes feels exposed being in U2, and that his openness, both to the public and music press, can do damage to the group. Author Niall Stokes interpreted the line as encompassing the theme of "surrendering the ego" to one's love and spiritual faith.
According to Bono, the song was heavily influenced by Scott Walker's album Climate of Hunter
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