286 Meanings
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With or Without You Lyrics

See the stone set in your eyes
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 reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I'm waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied
My body bruised, she's got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
286 Meanings
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This song is one of the most meaningful songs i've ever listened to. The message is fairly simple, but the way that he expresses himself throughout the song is so real, and so full of emotion that you can't help being drawn into the song. Maybe its just because i have been in exactly the same situation myself and i can empathise with the lyrics, but the hopelessness of his situation is depicted with the great contradictions. You give it all, but i want more. Nothing to win, nothing left to lose. The basic problem is that being with her is too hard to bear because he wants her so much, and being away from her is too much for the same reason. On a bed of nails she makes me wait. You give it all but i want more. He is showing his mixed feelings. He is angry that she is letting him stay in this situation, yet he knows that she is doing all she can. Hrmmm...i've gone on for a bit haven't i...it's just that this song is the story of my life, so i kinda could talk about it for a while...but i guess i'll just leave it here...

No. No. No. You guys (and gals) got it all wrong. You have totally misunderstood Bono. Bono is a very religious person - specifically Christian. Many, many U2 songs are sprinkled with or are about the relationship of man to God. In With or Without You, the singer of the song (symbolically of course) is Jesus. What Jesus is saying is that he is so disappointed in your sins that he can't live with you but loves you so much that he also cannot live without you. "See the stone set in your...

I think you're on the right track, Discerner. These lyrics are far more denser then "just" a relationship drama.

I agree in my opinion i believe its the fact he cannot go on with her because he has been pulled to the boundary he has nothing left to give her and on the without you bit i believe its because he has so many mixed up feelings he has failed to be happy in love with her so he has to put up with what is thrown his way which reminds me of alot of my situations you see :)

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This song is about a man who's torn between his predictable love for a woman who promises to always be by his side , the "good woman" (wife or girlfriend) and his fatal attraction for the other woman "the dark lady" who he can't have. She is unavailable (married or in a relationship) which makes his love for her all the more unpredictable and unattainable. She also seems to be unhappy in her current situation.

I think this song is an ode to the "dark lady" even though most comments seem to interpret it from the point of view of the "good woman".

"Stone set in your eyes": Her eyes are lifeless due to her unhappy situation. "Thorn twist in your side": She is stuck and unable to make a move. If she does, the consequences can be irreparable.

The man feels that he has to ultimately choose between the two women. "Sleight of hand and twist of fate": things happen very quickly and unpredictably just like a card trick. It also alludes to deception towards one or both women.

"On a bed of nails she makes me wait": she keeps him forever on hold, unable to decide on what to do and the waiting is killing him slowly.

"Through the storm we reach the shore. You give it all but I want more": He and the "dark lady" attempt to make it work and they almost succeed at it but he realizes that he wants all of her which she can't give him.

"And you give yourself away": The "dark lady" is wasting away in her current relationship.

"My hands are tied, My body bruised, she's got me with Nothing to win and Nothing left to lose": The man is also suffering from the fact that his "dark lady" is not making a decision as to whether she will leave her current situation to be with him or not. He has nothing to win because he knows that he will never have her and nothing left to lose because he knows that she's the one he really wants to be with.

"I can't live With or without you": He can't live with her because of the circumstances thrust upon them and he can't live without her because she's the one he needs and wants to be with.

My Interpretation

I like your take on this, you sold me. Predictable vs unpredictable love, which one would you rather have?

Mystified, I completely agree with you. I see the God imagery in the song also but on an earthly love level I believe it is definitely about a woman and man torn between their respective love and obligations to their spouses and families and the soulmate connection they also have to each other. They can't live with or without the other.

I like your take on this song

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I really like the many interpretations this brilliant song has.

To me it is about human imperfection (vs devine perfection). No matter how much you love another person (or cause, drug, god or whatever your desire is), it cannot fullfil you, you will always need more. No matter how much you give to other people, there is never enough, and you expose yourself while doing it. And it's painful and tiresome and sometimes leaves you battered and empty, when you try to live up to the devine perfection. Sometimes it feels like it's just circumstances that prevents us from being perfect, and you can't even give up hope that you one day will get there.

@TBA66 like Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy"

@TBA66 like Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy"

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This music speaks of attachment and addiction in relationships. When we are too attached, we feel we can not live without them, but at the same time we also can not build a relationship or a healthy life with that person. A relationship based on attachment, no one is free or let the other be free. Each one requires that other gives the well-being and happiness that they don't have inside. Their happiness is dependent on what the other does or doesn't do.

On the other hand, when someone tries to fulfill the other person, they realize that they can not do that and also realize that when they try to do it, they are sacrificing their lives, all their dreams and all needs just to fulfill the needs of the other.

Moral of the story: Real love is not attachment or addiction. Real loves is communion. Even if you love a person very much you have to be able to live without her/him even if you miss the relationship.

@anacristmatosHe is saying that no matter how much the partner gives, he always wants more, The partner tries to give it all, but when she does, she is renouncing herself.

@anacristmatos, your analysis is amazing. I just broke up with my girlfriend. And I didn't even really understand why until I read your comments. How did you know this? I am amazed at your ability to articulate your thoughts. Thank you.

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I am so passionate about what I think this means so me. The chorus especially... I'll admit this may not apply to the verses, but anyway.. I am always reminded of a scripture passage in Mark 8:

"And [Jesus] called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?'"

I interpret the chorus in reference with these verses. It's like Bono knows he can't live the life Jesus calls him to when he's living in the world. And Bono can't live his fleshly, sin-desiring life with God. *So Bono can't live (fleshly) WITH Jesus (" with you"), and he can't live (for eternity, abundantly, and with hope) WITHOUT Jesus.

I've thought of that too!

I completely agree. Well said!

I think it is both or either. A lover and Jesus.

@kd180 I don't know what is the problem with religious people that they try to relate everything to jesus or whatever...this song is obviously about a man and a woman in a difficult relationship.

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Well I came across this song cuz I happened to be the girl he played it to. In a way I wanted to share my side. Tis song so applies to "us". In our case I am in a relationship I can't simply get out (so I give myself away, but not to him) I can feel the pain he is suffering seeing me "give myself away" and all I can give him is my heart at the moment but he wants more. However he also saw the "stone in my eyes" and "thorns" meaning he knows the situation I'm in and my pains. So he's not the only one whose hurting. We've gone through some serious "storms" and hopefully now reached the "shore". Wait with or without me - I think he has decided to wait whether he gets me eventually soon or not in a long while, cuz there's nothing else he wants to do. He can't live with me (yet...) but he can't without me. Well in our situation for me...I've come to realize that I can't live with or without him too. Probably that is all the more reason he wants to wait or I make him wait.(either way) God is the picture in our case. So we can only look to Him in our unique situation...and we want to do the right thing.

Literally. Everything you wrote is what happened to me. It's amazing how we both had to deal with the same situation and how it ended the same way. My ex and I had been together for 2 years. His faith in God was so much stronger than mine when we first started going out. Then over the years it faded. I noticed but didn't really do anything but talk. I was the one trying to pick him back up but he just refused. He ended up not wanting to follow God at all. It seemed like God literally meant nothing...

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I used to have a lot of different thoughts about this song. But after my breakup with my girlfriend of 3 years after telling her I cheated on her it really hit me. Literally line by line "See the stone/see the thorn" All the pain and heartache id caused her by cheating on her. And despite me hurting her she's still like me to be a part of her life

"I wait for you" I still wanna be with her too, so I have to wait

"Sleight of hand and twist of fate" I had been sneaking around and being generally untrustworthy and in the end I got what I deserved which was her leaving me

"On a bed of nails she makes me wait" We're still friends and I wanna be with her so I have to tread very carefully with everything I do so she doesn't decide she doesn't wanna be with me.

"And I wait, without you" I have to wait, and while I wait she isn't mine. I have to handle not being with her.

"Through the storm we reach the shore" We've gone through the 'hard part' or 'storm' and have gotten through it relatively in tact.

"You give it all but I want more" She's as close to me as she can be right not but I still want her back the way we used to be.

"And I'm waiting for you" This seemed more personal to me, like bono telling the girl explicitly that he is waiting. Similarly whenever I feel I want more I've made it clear to her that I am waiting.

"With or without you I can't live With or without you" I'm in limbo, I don't know if we'll be together or not. I can live with her cause she won't let me, but I can't live without her because I'm still very much in love with her.

"And you give yourself away..."

I always thought in the song this was Bono's interest sleeping around as he waits. But for me it's that she wants to try to find a way to be without me so she gives herself to everything else. Focuses on pretty much anything else she can to take her mind off me and keep her from being upset.

The "and you give, and you give" To me are also reminiscent of our relationship in which she gave everything and I didn't give much back.

@Eddiemarz wow your perspective has blown my mind, so accurate

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To me this song is about someone waiting for the person they love, to love them back, though I could see how it is about God too, but to me, this is more about love.

Anyways, this describes the current issue I'm in right now, the person I love is in a relationship right now, we still talk, I've tried to see if they like me back, but I don't have an answer-yet, though I get the feeling she sort of likes me, but just isn't open to show it.
The more I stay here, the more in love with her I am, and when I'm away from her, she's constantly on my mind, I can't live, with, or without her.

I hope I get an answer soon, but I'll wait as long as I have to, until I can't wait any longer.

My Opinion

I also find myself in this song... Except we are truly hurting each other for the past 2 years. With cold stones in our eyes and hurtfull thorn fences around our hearts we are just spining around and around waiting one for the other to let go, and still disbelive when one does.Our hands are tied and there is nothing we can do, nothing to win and nothing to loose.

Reading this and seeing it's from early last year, if you reply...well, how did it go? I'm in the exact same situation myself at the moment and it is killing me. The meaning you have explained can easily be the meaning of this song

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Hmm. I would like to posit a more sinister meaning. This a man trapped between two loves; the "good woman," to whom he addresses the song, and the "dark lady" (freely stolen from Shakespeare's sonnets) who keeps him hanging, no doubt laughing all the while. One person who loves him and who he loves, the other he also loves but is merely using him.

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this is THE greatest song ever written, in my humble opinion. if i would've written this song, i'd never write another song again. and what amazes me about it is that after this song, bono continues to write amazing songs (walk on, starin at the sun.....) and i hate him for having more of that gift than everybody else in this world. Goddamn you bono! and the music makes it just asskicking. they put the right music to set the mood for this song and ugh... words can't explain how this song makes me feel. GODDAMN BONO!!!

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