The Default Principle

Worried man with hand to foreheadWhen you discover behavior that delivers pleasurable impact, your brain will crave a repetition of the impact. Accept this fact and prepare for it, and you’ll go far towards maintaining integrity over the years.

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

That’s because, to my thinking, the brain behaves quite amorally when it comes to impact. It stores in its 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 brief and 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 popups, 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, in essence, “This product will 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.”

But 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 high stimulation. Just ask anyone who’s tried abandoning cigarettes, junk food, drugs, gambling or porn. The behavior is a vehicle for the impact; the impact is what we both remember and crave. What to do?

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 the pesky, irritating popups 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 strength to resist when resistance is called for.

And 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.

Offer yourself to God and there’s no question He’ll accept the offering and, like the bread and fish He blessed and broke, He’ll make your offering into a blessing powerful and potent beyond your imagination.


Chuck | Nov 18, 2013

I like that advice Joe , prepare for it

Charlene E. Hios | Nov 18, 2013

Great article Joe;
It rings true. Especially the irritating pop ups seemingly out of nowhere.
I like to think that somehow one day we can figure out how to delete them.
Thankful to God for His healing and His strength daily.
Take care! I posted this article on my facebook page.

Jim | Nov 18, 2013

Truer words have not been spoken! I've heard it said that we can eradicate those default settings, but that's certainly not been true for me. Those pop ups continue to appear, seemingly at random. I can't wait until we get to heaven - what a day of rejoicing that will be.

SRMAC73 | Nov 20, 2013

I couldn't agree more Joe! When I finally stopped using porn after many many years of using it the "pop-ups" were very frequent, and at some of the oddest times. Almost a year later I still get them, but a lot less, and I have learned to ignore them or at least most of them. It is very much a "default" thing with my brain, but am slowly but surely resetting them.

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