Soren Kierkegaard said, “Philosophy is perfectly right in saying that life must be understood backward. But then one forgets the other clause—that it must be lived forward.” Today we say, “Hindsight is twenty-twenty.” The path every masculine heart takes in becoming a man includes significant mile markers posted during boyhood years.

Early in our story, the enemy of our Life gets a jump on the fight for our hearts. Before we even know we are in a fight, darkness is inflicting injury, wounding us at our core as a boy, bringing fear, guilt, and often shame. The enemy takes ground in our young heart and uses it against us, both in the moment and also in the future. Growing up, some of us had it far worse than others.

As a boy, my friend, Tom, was scolded time and time again by his father: “I would have never even thought about doing what you did.”

Another friend, Jay, heard “If you would just apply yourself.”

My friend, Jim, never truly knew what his dad felt toward him. Jim was the oldest of six kids, and there simply wasn’t time enough for Dad to get around to all of them. Maybe you are familiar with the concept that “in the absence of information, we go to the negative.”

Just as kind and loving words bring Life, harsh words or the absence of words bring wounding and pain. Doubt, uncertainty, negative judgments, shaming or degrading pronouncements, and even sheer silence all weigh a heart down and make us susceptible to negative interpretations and lasting emotions. “Negative” is putting it nicely. Some of these moments were/are downright evil. Some are like a pebble in a man’s shoe; others are like a backpack full of rocks, while others haunt a man like some kind of infection: affecting him every day of his life. Any and all negative moments, words, or deeds will hinder and encumber a man on his journey to becoming a man.

With our hearts weighed down, enduring and “making the best of things” often becomes our plan. Even worse than carrying the pack of lies is getting our strength from its contents. Being fueled by our wounds and their message is a recipe for disaster in a man’s life, one our enemy loves to cook up and serve cold again and again.

The pack of lies produces the kind of man I call disoriented, badly motivating a man to hide, prove, or fear. No man escapes this condition, but every man can be freed from the presence and pain of it, the lies that bind. The weight of men’s packs may differ, but every man has an incredible amount of say as to whether he stays loaded up and weighed down with wounding messages or finds freedom.

Pausing to take off your shoe and dump the pebble or unloading your personal backpack is an act of the will. Standing firm against evil starts by asking God:

Father, what is this held up in my heart? What am I carrying in me that is set against me?

God has been waiting for you to ask, seek, and knock for quite some time. In response, He may take you into a memory, or He may take you into a current moment to bring the pain of the past to the surface again. Whichever way He chooses, He is inviting you to do some good and important redemptive work by retracing your steps.

Unpacking the lies of your past and giving them over to God opens you up to the new packages he has for you: gifts of redemption and restoration that make up your Belovedness.

In your time alone with God, ask Him:

Father, what lies have I believed about myself, others, and even you?

Jesus, when in my story was I wounded, where, when, and from whom? What was the message of those moments to my heart?

Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see and ears to hear the important moments of my past that might have shaped me in a not-so-good way. What am I carrying in my heart that needs to be traded in?