Let me explain my approach first with an example. Years ago I ran into an old friend and she and I were discussing a new diet method we had heard had helped many to lose the unwanted weight, fat. The diet begins with eating a specially designed nugget at different times a day. This nugget seemed to trigger the body to lose weight effortlessly and when you get to your ideal weight you stop eating this nugget and begin to eat real food and in moderation. You see you are set free from your weight, then you are encouraged to begin a healthy approach to eating diet.
Character study can be like most diets to lose weight, you first work to get rid of the weight then you rest, while the diet my friend and I were discussing sought to rid you of the weight then you work to keep it off. See the difference. In one approach you have the thin body you want so you appreciate the freedom from your excess weight and in turn this gratitude can lead to a willingness to do some work to keep it that way. In the other approach you are still burdened by more weight than you want or need hoping your hard work will make you thin.
So when we read the morally sound stories that inspire in us to nobel deeds and to honor and we talk about what good character qualities the characters possesses we remind ourselves that we have a way to obtain those traits too because of Jesus's victory for us on the cross. We also discuss how we could fail like many of the characters in our stories if we fail to believe we are free and have the power to resist or overcome the temptations in the world around us to be lazy or greedy etc. We remind ourselves also that Jesus's gift of salvation we have received is also a gift to have the power to please God and live right here on earth. Somehow it is easier to remain free than to try to get free. If we are already free what could make us more free? Somehow the appreciation of knowing our burden has been taken from us makes us feel we never want to go back.
There is no absolute proof that Jesus's death 2,000 years ago has set us free from sin but when we face the decision daily to chose to believe it we are learning to receive by faith what is right, noble and true as our own. We find it is possible to be noble and honorable. In so doing our faith in this truth is proved true time and again. The things we once believed had us bound to bad habits of wrong doing we are seeing are simply not that powerful and in truth they are really just lies we are learning not to believe.
We have two books we are reading through twice week; Created for work by Bob Shultz and The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett. I read from each of these books once a week then we narrate the chapter or stories and have the grand discussion about the ideas we found in them. In this discussion we talk about the truths I wrote about above. It is where we talk about our own lives and how we can apply the truth that we are free to do good, and that we have the power to do good. It is where we do not rely upon our own efforts to be good but remember Jesus's promise to be with us always. We discuss how we can include him more in our daily lives. We lean upon HIM for our goodness and worthy and virtuous traits. This lesson is simple but the discussions will last for a long time in our hearts. There are no lists, or reminders to be posted on the bathroom mirrors we simply invite Jesus to live with us in every moment and we drink in the ideas strewn about in the atmosphere of learning that has been carefully cultivated.
For further discussion on this topic I found Nancy Kelly's article entitled The Habits Pendulum inspiring and enlightening.