This morning at Mass Father compared Lent to a time-out. He was quick to emphasize that he didn't mean to imply that Lent is punishment, because he said that parents putting their children in time-out do so to bring their children out of a situation, and give them something to think about.
He continued that Lent is also quite like a sports time-out, where the players huddle with their coach and get a strategy for the ongoing game. Similarly, we can use Lent to (in his words) "huddle a little closer" to the Lord so that we, too, can improve.
In the first kind of time-out, the intent is to remedy bad behavior. In the second, it is to encourage good behavior. Father concluded that during Lent, we have enough TIME to break a bad habit and start a good one.
Lent's not a time for the Church to punish us. Instead, it is an opportunity.