Runaway shows up three times in my iTunes library. Not the same song, but three different songs by three different artists all titled Runaway. It gave me pause. Yes, I have turned away from some tough times, but I have also hunkered down and pushed through. Surely, I am not a runner. Surely, there is another explanation for why I have so many songs that share that title. Set on finding a different explanation for the multiple Runaway songs, I came up with another hypothesis:
There must be a disproportionate number of songs titled Runaway. To validate my theory, I turned to Google. Thankfully, someone has actually established a website that acts as a directory of songs with the same title, but different artists and lyrics. Runaway made the top 10 list of repeated titles! Other repeated titles include: Home, Hold On, Angel, Breathe, Without You, Heaven, My Love, Holiday and Closer. Nothing too shocking on there.
Now that I confirmed that Runaway has a statistically significant reoccurrence as a song title, I had something else I wanted to examine, what is so wrong with running away anyway?
Running away gets a bad rap. It seems like there is an automatic negative connotation with it. Don’t run away from problems – confront them head on! But must we? Do we always need to face threats to our safety and comfort or are there times when it is appropriate to run like hell. I believe the answer is the latter.
Looking at the most basic level, our bodies come equipped with a preprogrammed Fight or Flight system that tells us what to do when we do not have the time to think it through. Sure, this genetic pre-disposition is a holdover from the days when our survival depended on this mechanism, but it still has a place in modern society. It can still help us sniff out bad things to avoid and good things worth pursuing. The preprogrammed message from our body is clear: Runaway to protect yourself! That thing or hazard (or whatever) will cause harm to you that may be irreparable!
I’m pretty sure cavemen weren’t telling each other to run towards danger. I’m pretty sure they were pounding on their chests: save yourself! And drew pictures on their cave walls teaching their cave children how to avoid dangers.
Here’s the catch, not all dangers or predators are readily apparent. In many contexts the threat is clear, while in others it may not be as clear. As a result, sometimes I ran to, when I should have run from. At the simplest level, a predator or danger is one preying on our vulnerabilities or weaknesses.
Distinguishing when to runaway from when to keep at it is the hardest part. For me, the answer is not always the same. Nor is it easy to come up with. There is no flow chart to follow. Instead the analysis is always: it depends. Who or what am I considering running from? Why am I thinking about running from them or it? Is this going to hurt me or make me better, stronger and happier? Sometimes it is just a gut response that I cannot explain (if you haven’t already, pick up Blink) And sometimes I need more thought. Maybe all I am trying to say (primarily to myself) is: trust your gut and stop beating yourself up when you do run.
Sure there are times to keep pushing forward, but there are also times to simply walk away. To not look back. We need to be comfortable with helping people celebrate when they make that brave decision.
This is not an anthem for running away. Nor am I suggesting to make it a policy to run away from everything. Instead, the next time I run away, I will take solace in knowing it is a popular enough concept that over 20 artists have dedicated lyrics and a song to it. It is a topic that is as popular to sing about as Home, Love and Breathing – all things essential to our livelihood. Just as running away at the right moment is essential to our survival too.
The next time someone says, “but you can’t run away from your problems.” Ask them, “Would you run away from a bear?”