The mind is a wonderful thing. It can design complex machinery (intellect); it can warn of an impending error of judgment (conscience); it can relate to the misfortune of others (compassion); it can review past events and learn from mistakes (wisdom); it can relive some pleasant experience; it can heal from great injury or tragedy and continue to be productive.
But the mind can also lose its way. It can become one-dimensional, fixated on certain things that are exaggerated disproportionately. Perspective and balance are lost and our decisions and actions suffer. We can be distracted from what really matters and focused on what is frivolous or even unhealthy. Here are a few fixations that in my experience people tend to struggle with:
Appearance. A balanced person wishes to present themselves modestly. Modest in the New Testament doesn’t specifically mean “covered up” or “non-seductive” but “well-arranged, seemly, decent” as pertains to “women professing godliness” in all its ramifications (cf. 1 Tim 2:9-10). Those fixated on how they are perceived by others will exaggerate various elements of their appearance -- sensual clothing, shocking fashions, radical hairdos, extreme piercings and/or tattoos -- anything to cry out “Notice me!” Conversely, they justify their radical appearance by saying they don’t care what others think about them. While there is an element of judgment in what is modest, it is the desire for godliness that governs presentation. But the trickiest part of all is to apply it to ourselves. Sometimes we are so self-absorbed that we are the last to see what is painfully obvious to everyone else.
Food. The nature of our earthly body is such that it needs fueling with food. Rather than make this a mechanical duty, God instills pleasure in the process; eating is an enjoyable activity. The flavors, smells and textures of food are enticing and satisfying. Food also has a social component; it is something we enjoy doing with family and friends. We also celebrate with food; banquets are associated with weddings, funerals, sporting events, watching movies; birthdays, holidays, milestone achievements, etc. Thus Jesus ate with His disciples and others on various occasions.
But what is legitimately pleasurable is also dangerous, for it can be twisted into something unnatural. Food is not intended as an escape from reality, a cure for loneliness, an appetite to control so that we can compensate for our feelings of helplessness or abuse. People so fixated on food will starve or glut themselves into ill health.
Health. It is understandable that those diagnosed with or battling serious illness would become consumed with their condition. But healthy people can also become fixated on their bodies to the point that most of their maladies are imagined. This is called hypochondria, a fixation that unfortunately leads to others, like taking unnecessary drugs, becoming one-dimensional in conversations, focusing on who has not called or visited them, absenting themselves from worship and/or other spiritual duties (while continuing to work, shop, eat out, etc.).
Doctrinal hobbies. Through the years I have seen brethren exaggerate various doctrinal issues out of all proportion and through them cause alienation and division. But odder still is that often those same people who are sticklers for their hobby have gaping inconsistencies in other aspects of their faith. It is as if they seize upon a pet issue as a hallmark of piety to camouflage their lack of true spirituality elsewhere.
In short, we can fixate on anything: jealousy, mistreatment, animals, germs, sex, the environment, our children, our heritage, even junk (hoarding). A few episodes of "American Pickers" or "Strange Inheritance" will amply illustrate this tendency. But the end result is an unhealthy mind that is focused on the extraneous and lacking in balance and good sense.
Jesus spoke of being made free by the truth (John 8:32). That observation has many implications, but one of them is that truth sets us free from the fixations of mind that obscure reality. Truth leads to mental and emotional balance that allows us to thrive and flourish. We must become free from fixations, distractions, superstitions, anxieties, ignorance, self-centeredness and other mental impairments that cripple our joy and usefulness to God and others.
God’s word prioritizes our values and activities. It encourages our trust in God so that we do not become consumed by things insignificant or beyond our control (cf. Matt. 6:25-34; James 4:13-17). Truth enables the legitimate enjoyment of life’s blessings, for the contradiction of fixation is that it actually robs us of the real satisfaction of whatever we are fixated on. We become a slave to our passion rather than controlling it to beneficial ends.