‘thank u, next’ Has a Message Nobody Was Expecting

"Thank U, Next" Song by Ariana Grande has a meaning no one expected. Read here.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for American Express)

When flipping through radio channels, you can find two types of love songs:

  1. I’m obsessed with you, you’re my drug
  2. I hate you, you ruined my life

When I heard Ariana Grande dropped a new single that quite literally calls out the names of her exes, I anticipated the revenge song of our generation. If you haven’t been tuned into pop culture the past five months, singer Ariana Grande and comedian Pete Davidson began their very public romance in May, got engaged in June, and broke the whole thing off some time in September. They even got numerous matching tattoos. Ahhh.

But when I pressed play on the recently released, “thank u, next,” I was shocked to find the opposite of a bitter breakup anthem. On the contrary, this catchy, upbeat pop song bears a message that encourages handling a split in a way that can transform you as a person and even points toward a life led with Christ at the center.

So, if you’ve ever repeatedly listened to sad breakup songs simply to exacerbate the misery, it’s time to throw this bop into your playlist to put a positive perspective on your breakup! Let’s take a dive into the multiple life lessons and takeaways present in “thank u, next.” You may be surprised at the lyrical truth bombs that we can all apply to our dating lives.

Lesson No. 1: Your ex is not evil

"thank u, next" song lyrics meaning by Ariana Grande: "Thought I’d end up with Sean, but he wasn’t a match, / Sang some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh, / Even almost got married, and for Pete I’m so thankful, / Wish I could say “Thank you” to Malcolm, Cuz he was an angel."

For many of us, our natural instinct is to do a complete 180 on how we feel about the person we used to be smitten with. Suddenly, everything you used to love about them is overshadowed with the fact that they did you wrong and now they’re on your list of enemies. Which is understandable, but we all know that demonizing our exes doesn’t really help us heal from the pain. It’s helpful to remember that your exes are still people guilty of flaws and have their own wounds.

It’s probably because of these wounds that they hurt you in the first place. Understanding their imperfections is necessary for forgiving them, ultimately releasing you from the hold they have over you.

As Ariana goes through the list of her exes, she doesn’t belabor the ways they hurt her and doesn’t drag their names through the dirt. She recognizes it simply didn’t work out with them. She reminds us to take a step back and look at the big picture of how relationships factor into the grand scheme of our lives.

Lesson No. 2: Everything happens for a reason

"thank u, next" song lyrics meaning by Ariana Grande: "One taught me love / One taught me patience / And one taught me pain / Now, I'm so amazing / I've loved and I've lost / But that's not what I see / So, look what I got / Look what you taught me."

When yet another relationship ends, it’s tempting to shake our fists at the sky and scream “Why?!” We may be at a loss as to why things didn’t work out or simply frustrated that God keeps on sending us people who aren’t “the one.” Writing off past relationships as complete failures, however, disregards the fact that our exes did come into our lives for a reason and there is a greater plan in motion. Simply because we didn’t end up with any of them doesn’t mean their roles were meaningless.

In “thank u, next,” Ariana literally creates a list of all the positive things her exes taught her. She continues on to say, “I loved and I’ve lost, but that’s not what I see…look what I got, look what you taught me.” Instead of seeing her exes as people who took something away from her or wasted her time, she recognizes how they’ve each contributed to who she’s become as a person because she’s chosen to grow from her experiences.

Lesson No. 3: You are not only loved by a S.O.

"thank u, next" song lyrics meaning by Ariana Grande: "Spend more time with my friends / I ain't worried 'bout nothin' / Plus, I met someone else / We havin' better discussions / I know they say I move on too fast / But this one gon' last / 'Cause her name is Ari / And I'm so good with that."

When we’re in the throes of the breakup, we tend to focus on all the ways we’re not being loved by the person we’re breaking up with. But what about the people in your life who dropped everything to help you get through the breakup? The friends who canceled their plans just to sit with you as you cried? Or the family members who patiently listened on the phone as you overanalyzed what happened? When we get caught up in the trials of romantic love, we forget about the people who are already loving us the most in our lives.

Any time we experience unconditional love, it’s a reflection of the unconditional love of God. Even when we’re at our lowest and falling apart, our friends and family love us anyway — that’s a huge testament to our inherent worth. It’s easy to let a breakup completely rock your perception of yourself. But the support and affirmation of our friends and family remind us that we’re worthy of love no matter what, and it should give us a truer sense of who we are in the eyes of God. The constant, unchanging love of God and love we receive from our friends and family are and always will be enough. A life spent loving them in return is a life full of purpose and beauty.

Lesson No. 4: Pain is necessary for growth

"thank u, next" song lyrics meaning by Ariana Grande: "I've learned from the pain (Pain) / I turned out amazing (Turned out amazing)."

One of the most impactful lessons from “thank u, next” is that you can choose to grow, no matter how badly you’ve been hurt. Regardless of how your ex mistreated you or how terribly your relationship ended, you have the power to grow from that hurt. Running away from our pain stunts our growth and doesn’t allow us to process the lessons that we need to learn. It’s normal to want to escape the pain and numb ourselves, but we were made with deep emotional capacities for a reason. Don’t be afraid of feeling deeply — it is through the magnitude of our pain that we are able to see the face of Christ if we choose to turn to Him.

God’s greatest creation is that good can come from bad. The greatest love ever known to the world came from the incomprehensible pain of the cross. We have the choice to suffer well by simply crying out, “God, I can’t do this on my own. Please help me.” Our heartache can be an opportunity to understand a greater love, opening us up to grow in ways we never thought possible.

Lesson No. 5: Gratitude is essential for happiness

"thank u, next" song lyrics meaning by Ariana Grande: "Thank you, next (Next) / Thank you, next / I'm so f**kin' grateful for my ex."

I heard a priest say in a homily once, “You cannot be truly happy until you have gratitude.” Of course, this is easier said than done, but a breakup is actually an ideal situation for learning gratitude simply because humility is necessary for truly being grateful.

Any breakup is a real kick in the pride, reminding us of our smallness because we feel rejected and unwanted. No matter how confident you are, it’s a humbling experience to split up with someone you were vulnerable with. Recognizing and accepting smallness makes it difficult for pride to get in the way of growth, allowing you to let pain transform you for the better. When we see that positive change, even if it came from suffering, how can we not be grateful for the experience?

Lesson No. 6: Be joyful

One of the biggest things that struck me about “thank u, next” is how joyful it is. We’re all used to breakup songs that tempt us to wallow in self-pity and revisit negative feelings that prolong healing. Ariana reminds us that life does not end because of a breakup. The entire concept of the song — and even simply the words,“Thank you, next” — expresses a boldness in the trust of God’s plan and a joy for living. And perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from this positive breaking up anthem is to not despair.

One of the hardest things about going through a breakup is the fact that the future we had envisioned for ourselves has been completely dashed away. Because we can’t see the entire storyline of our lives, it feels like stumbling in the dark. We want complete control so we want to ensure our love story happens the way we want it to. But an obsessive control can cause us to miss red flags and blind us from seeing how someone is actually wrong for us. God knows what’s best for us and when a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s because He knows that person wasn’t right for you — but He also knows who is.

So, if you’ve ever experienced heartache, take this moment to listen to, “thank u, next.” Grab a notebook and write down the names of the people who have caused you pain, list all of the good things you learned from them. Dance and be joyful that you don’t know the storyline of your life. Trust that God has an even better plan in store for you.

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