Henley wrote the lyrics with J.D. Souther, who was a frequent collaborator with the Eagles. The song is about a man who finds out his former lover has found someone else, which is exactly what they were both going through at the time. In our interview with J.D. Souther
, he explained: "At that particular moment it was an easy song for both of us to work on, because we had both, within the last year or so, broken up with our fiancées. We'd both been in love and engaged at the same time and both his relationship with his girl and me with mine ended in the same few months. And it's pretty much what the song says, they had both taken up with somebody else. And that's not easy to hear, but at the time it made a good source material for that song, because it seemed to be really universal and it seemed the only way to really survive your first reaction to hearing news like that or having those kind of feelings is to remember that the first person to benefit from forgiveness is the one who does the forgiving. And, actually, that was Don's idea. I have to give him full credit for that forgiveness theme. The first time he sang that forgiveness chorus over and over to me, I didn't get it. Kind of went, 'Yeah, I guess.' And then it sort of sunk it that it was exactly the point of the song."