Primary Virtues: Over decades I have searched for a way to express the relationships of various virtues. In 2010, I realized there are three primary virtues in Christianity: Charity, Faith, and Hope, similar to the three primary colors in a color wheel. Other names for them are Loving, Confident, and Optimistic.
Complements: “An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.”1 Even the primary virtues have to be tempered, or complemented. The complements to the primary virtues might be Virtuous or Principled, Humble or Teachable, and Honest or Realistic.
Tertiary Virtues: Diligent and Patient, Courageous and Meek, Cheerful and Reverent are tertiary pairs of virtues with complementary and neighboring relationships.
Shades and Tints are formed when white or black are added to colors, perhaps like adding Justice or Exactness, and Mercy or Forgiveness.
Face Values: Virtues at the center are not complemented: One cannot have too much Obedience, Knowledge, and Gratitude. Holiness is the center of the wheel. Integrity is a perfectly shaped wheel, with balance between all virtues, and Temperance is moving slowly between virtues, and avoiding the edges.
Halves and Quadrants: Virtues can be grouped into halves and quadrants, with similar characteristics.
Vices: “Any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice.”2 Moving outside the wheel in any direction takes us to a vice. The primary vices are Pride, Fear, and Despair—those farthest from the primary virtues.
Virtue Means Strength
Honesty is a Battleground Virtue: Is Honesty a competitive disadvantage? Some think it restricts choice. Yet in Latin “virtue” means strength. If used appropriately, no strength is a weakness. It enables choices not available to those who lack it. Complements enable appropriate use of every virtue.
Competitive Advantage: Honest people can form trusted relationships in a fraction of the time of the dishonest, leading to efficiencies in commitments and contracts never available to the dishonest.
Ignorance is Not a Virtue: The honest cannot be naïve. Weakness in Knowledge is not made up for by Honesty.
The Modern World is Made Possible by Virtues: Commerce, community, education, democracy, health and peace are built on a foundation of virtues. The well-rounded virtuous person has nothing to fear from the un-virtuous. Virtue means strength.
The following is a set of slides discussing the virtue wheel in more detail.
- The Color Wheel
- Complementary Colors
- Other Types of Complements
- Primary Virtues: Loving, Faithful and Hopeful
- Secondary Virtues: Virtuous, Humble and Honest
- The Basic Virtue Wheel
- Tertiary Colors: Meek and Courageous
- Tertiary Colors: Diligent and Patient
- Tertiary Colors: Joyful and Reverent
- Virtues of Maturity and Child-like Virtues
- Quadrants: Experienced and Expectant
- Quadrants: Take Action and Acted Upon
- The Special Power of Love
- Other Attributes
- Holiness, Gratitude, Mindful
- Obedience and Wisdom
- The Vice Wheel
- Virtues and Vices
- Primary Vices
- Triadic Complements
- Color Wheel or Periodic Table
- The Periodic Table of Virtues
- Virtue Synonyms
- Virtue Measurement
- The Virtue Wheel
- A Single Sheet Summary
You can learn more about the from draft portions of my book The Virtue Wheel. For those interested in Geek Content, see Virtues by the numbers, or How I developed the initial list.
My periodic blog entries are located under Running Thoughts.
1“Teach Us Tolerance and Love” Russell M. Nelson, April 1994 General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2” Of Things That Matter Most” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct. 2010, General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.