Chapter 6: Tertiary Virtues and Beyond

Tertiary colors are blends between primary and secondary colors.  They are named as mixtures of the two colors on either side.  Red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

In a similar way, tertiary virtues have relationships to the primary—hope, faith, charity–and secondary virtues—honesty, humility, and virtue.  We’ll consider each complementary pair.

Courageous and Meek

Meekness is an unheralded virtue in our day.  Because of that it is also not well understood.  But it is of such importance that it made the list of Christ’s Beatitudes in the great Sermon on the Mount:  “Blessed are the meek” he said, “for they shall inherit the earth. ” (Matthew, 5:5) Perhaps a better modern word might be gentle. 

Understanding meekness might be easier if we focus on its complement, courage or bravery, both of which are much more emphasized in our day and age.

Courage is between confidence and principled; it has the independence of being principled, and is an outward expression of confidence.  It recognizes that fear is a poor motivation for almost any action, and is so well developed in some that at the first hint of fear they attack if you will, they push against whatever causes the fear, they stand their ground, courageously.

As others have noted, courage is not lack of fear, it is complete control of it.

Returning to meekness, some who view courage as strong then see meek as weak. But meekness is not shrinking and hiding; it can however involve absorbing injustice.  Meekness can keep us from injuring those who are wounded, who lash out because of the injury. 

I believe the natural bias to view meekness as weak is what will enable the meek to inherit the earth.  This bias works against the courageous.  The meek detect when a battle is unjust or even unneeded.  The meek are effective at clearing the battlefield before the war begins, or even absorbing a blow or two without retaliation. 

I do not believe Christ was speaking of the meek who lack courage as those who would inherit the earth.  Indeed, I think reviewing his life, seeing meekness within it, we can also detect great courage.  The meek he was speaking of practice the concepts of the virtue wheel; to be balanced they much have both characteristics.  The meek cannot lack courage to defend the right.

But the bias against meekness leads the courageous to discount it.  This leads to engaging in unjust conflicts. 

In the end the defining characteristic of those left at the end of great conflicts will not be courage, for the courageous who lack meekness will engage in battle with other similarly possessed.  Thus the battlefield will be cleared of those who are only courageous.  The world will be inherited by those who are meek.

Diligent and Patient

What a powerful pair of virtues these are, a perfectly balanced set with power on each end.

The patient person who understands the virtue wheel is not required to always be waiting. A patient person can, in some cases, require consistent activity, consistent pushing against whatever the obstacle may be.  But the patient can achieve things that someone who is impatient never can.  Growth and development of followers can require time; a patient leader can recognize when the critical ingredient of patience is needed to achieve an objective. 

Yet oh the power of diligence.  Incremental improvement, taking small steps at every possible turn, with diligence what can be achieved?  Well, it can literally move mountains, one spoonful at a time. 

In certain conditions, there is no alternative.  How could a mountain be moved before the advent of a front loader?  If the ore required to even make the spoon is at the middle of the mountain, small means are going to be needed before the spoon is even available.  Diligence will be the only answer.

Diligence requires facing problems honestly over, and over and over again; and that repeated effort requires faith that in the end the objective can be achieved. 

The balance between work and rest are perfectly reflected in this pair of powerful virtues.

Cheerful and Respectful

Being virtuous is not drudgery; at the same time it is not light-mindedness either.  This pair of virtues helps us strike the appropriate balance between these two extremes.

As we’ve noted, there is an innate human bias towards being virtuous; children want to be good, and unless seriously focused on destroying that desire, no one is proud of being unvirtuous. 

Cheerfulness is a simple reflection of that natural state of the virtuous.  When one is honest one doesn’t have to remember what lies have been told; when one is loving, love is often returned.  The peace that comes through patience when things go wrong buoy us up in the midst of troubles.  All these attributes support and enhance natural cheerfulness.

Yet moments of deep reflection and respect do not diminish cheerfulness.  Reverence is a word less frequently used today, but it reflects an ability to sense sacredness, a deep form of respect.

One of my first surveys of words of virtue in a selection of the world’s wisdom literature highlighted an unexpectedly high emphasis on being sober.*

Reverence, respect, soberness, all are conducive to sensing our place in the world, remembering our insignificance and unimportance, in hearing an inner voice which will help align us to what is virtuous. 

What powerful virtues are cheerfulness and reverence.

*My original analysis I included sober as a synonym of temperate. 



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