6 Reasons Why Character Formation Is So Hard

Twenty years ago, in his book Becoming Good, writer David Gill described the moral scene in North America as an ethical wilderness. It is wild, untamed, unpredictable, threatening, dangerous, and thus, stressful.


Some Christians choose to withdraw and get as far away from that wide and wild wilderness as they can. Others stay in the wilderness but have sort of given up on change—they just try to survive reasonably intact. Others try to create pockets of goodness, like an oasis.

For those who know they have to stay in the wilderness and who are committed to creating oasis space there, it does help to understand what has made the wilderness—the wilderness.

Yesterday focused on ONE BIG theme, and that is the systems and structures that once were helpful are no longer helpful in forming virtue as Christians understand it.

Here are 6 more reasons why it’s a moral wilderness today:

1|| We have a whole new series of problems that are complicated and confusing. We face moral dilemmas because of technology and major advances in medicine, genetics, robotics, and the sciences in general. While much good has come out of all this, there is a dark underside that makes modern life very complex, and many times we just don’t know what to think or how to act.

2|| Everything is connected. Everything is now intertwined and interdependent. We use to be able to compartmentalize our lives, at least somewhat, and keep the compartments separate. That is no longer the case. Everything out there is finding a way to worm into your life. You are being ACTED UPON by a great many actors whose impact is enormous.

3|| Our nation is far more diverse than ever. I personally think diversity is a very good thing, but diversity brings a good number of challenges. One of those challenges is that the former ways are no longer the only ways. Options abound. Christianity must now present its moral beliefs alongside all the other religions and ways. Diversity has brought with it pluralism and a sense that it all seems pretty relative.

4|| Life is very fast today. The pace, the frequency, the scope, and the intensity of change is IMMENSE. And just when you think the change is over, here comes another one. It feels like we are in a state of permanent disequilibrium. We are constantly off balance. It is one thing to be off balance standing on the ground, but now it feels like we are off balance on the tightrope.

5|| The issue of the individual as supremely important and solely responsible to map out their own personal way, on their own, and with no need to regard the preferences of others, is now the NORM. You can decide what you think is right or wrong. No one can tell you what you SHOULD or OUGHT to believe morally. You decide. Everyone tolerates your decision. But the insanity of that viewpoint is immediately obvious, because not everything is OKAY. And we make more and more rules about what is NOT OKAY. And we have more and more lawsuits about people who do things to us that are NOT OKAY. It is mixed message of the worst sort, but it is a powerful and pervasive message.

6|| Finally, and in my mind, what is even greater is that we now live in a post-Christian culture. Christianity is no longer the dominant worldview or preferred way for North Americans. Christianity is just one option, and for many people, not even a very good option. Those other ways are very vocal and negative about Christianity.


There you have it. Six more reasons, for a total of SEVEN reasons why moral-character-virtue formation seems harder than ever.

What do you think? How do you see any of those factors-forces at work making your own character formation even harder?

Remember, the church is here to be a counter-cultural alternative of the better way of Jesus. Even though the gate is small and the way is narrow, God opens the door and Jesus is the Way. It is a Good Way that changes you as you walk it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Walking together with you on the Way of Jesus,
Pastor Brian

Brian Rice