The Default Principle

When you discover an intense experience, it becomes yours. You adopt it, mentally and permanently. And once it’s adopted, it stays in your memory as a part of your experiential history.

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That’s bad news, and it gets worse. Your brain, which has been impacted, not only adopts the experience into its memory banks, but also craves a repetition of that impact. Repeat the behavior again, and pretty soon your brain will not only crave repetition, it will literally demand it. Which is exactly why so many of us, to this day, wrestle with temptations towards behaviors we’ve renounced.

That’s the Default Principle. And if we can accept it and stay prepared for it, then we can go far towards maintaining integrity over the long haul.

“I’m Tempted” Doesn’t Mean “I’m Sinning”

I used to think that if the urge to look at porn re-emerged, it meant I was messing up, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes that proved to be true, certainly, but not always. Decades after stopping all porn use, I find the temptation can still arise when things are going beautifully or horribly or anything in between. Lust has a mind of its own, and the temptation to default back to high-impact activity can rear its head anytime, without rhyme or reason.

Our brains, sensitive as they are, behave quite amorally when it comes to impact. They store in their memory banks a careful recording of intense experiences, so we can re-experience, sometimes vividly, early episodes of great fear, joy, or sensual pleasure through nothing more than simple recall. The moral rightness or wrongness of the experience has little to do with how deeply embedded that recording is. It’s the intensity, not the morality, that etches an action into the recall files, and there’s no delete button that can be accessed to rid the mind of what the heart may have rightfully rejected.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the memories of actions we’ve renounced need no invitation to poke themselves into our consciousness. Like irritating, unwanted internet pop-ups, they come barging in when we’re trying to concentrate on something else entirely. You’ve probably experienced this yourself; I sure have. At the weirdest, most in-opportune times some seedy image or episode from my past replays itself on my mental screen. Nothing I’ve done causes it; it needs no cause. It just is.

Other times, of course, the cause is easy to discern. If I’m in a bad mood, or bored, or generally at loose ends, my brain reminds me of habits discarded decades ago and says, “Hey, don’t you remember the porn product? It’ll alleviate your discomfort, stabilize your mood, entertain, energize and soothe you all at once. But wait! There’s more. It’s free, easy to access and efficient. Operators are waiting for your call.”

So the default principle kicks into gear, whether its cause is obvious or obscure. We are inclined to fall back into patterns that deliver comfort, or anesthesia, or what we both remember and crave. What to do?

Living Sacrifices are Living Success Stories

As always, answers are found in the Word. Paul, no slouch when it comes to understanding the human system, offers practical and very useful advice in Romans 12:1-2 :

 I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be no conformed the this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind —”

I can’t do anything to stop those pesky, irritating pop-ups from careening through my head. I can, though, on a daily basis present my body to God, brain included, and ask Him to give me relief from the pull towards default, and for strength to resist when resistance is called for.

And for transformation, through the Holy Spirit’s amazing work and ability to cleanse my mind when nothing else works.

It’s an old approach, tried and true, simple and effective. Please try it today if you’ve found yourself defaulting, year after year, to unclean actions. If you have then it’s time to stop, and when stopping, it’s time to return to the basics.

So please go for it. Offer yourself to God now, as a living sacrifice who wants to resist the wrong and conform to the right, both in thought and in action. There’s no question He’ll accept that offering and, like the bread and fish He blessed and broke, He’ll shape the offered vessel into a tool of blessing, powerful and potent beyond your imagination.

Next: Marriage Matters

Friday: Reparative Therapy: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters
This will be the first in a five-part weekly series on the controversy over therapy for homosexuals wanting to change, which will be posted for the next five Fridays.

Saturday: Our response to the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview on Jenner and transsexualism.



  1. Once again, thank you Joe. You are such a blessing.

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