Chapter 3: Color Wheel Analogy

The Color Wheel

Virtue Wheel V7 clear_1 Color Wheel Example
Example Color Wheel

The color wheel is a common tool used to help people understand the relationship between different colors.

It is composed of

  • Primary colors, Red, Blue and Yellow,
  • Secondary colors of Orange, Green and Violet, and
  • Tertiary colors, like blue-green, and dark blue.

Black and white are used to creates shades and tints of all these colors

Complementary Colors

A graphic of Complementary Colors
Color Wheel Complements

“Complement” is a concept used in color theory.  Colors across from each other are considered complementary.

If complements are added together, they produce white.  It might be said they supply what the other color lacks perfectly.

Complementary colors when used together provide a pleasing contrast.

A very common pairing is red and green, the Christmas colors.

Other Types of Complements

Graphic of other types of complements
Other Types of Complements

There are other types of complements that can be used besides simply two complementary colors.  They include spilt complements and triadic complements, each with three colors, and tetradic complements of four colors.  Each has a particular usefulness.

Primary Virtues: Loving, Faithful and Hopeful

Graphic of the primary virtues
Primary Virtues: Loving, Faithful and Hopeful

Christian tradition emphasizes three primary virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity.  Noting that there are three primary colors as well,  I thought perhaps a color wheel may help explain the relationship between various virtues.  I believe a better modern word for charity is Loving.

The wisdom literature from many cultures contains useful ideas for much more than religion; useful in our families, work, and social settings.  Although these ideas are inspired by a Christian background, the Virtue Wheel attempts to describe them more generally.

Secondary Virtues: Virtuous, Humble and Honest

Graphic of secondary virtues
Secondary Virtues: Virtuous, Humble and Honest

If loving, hopeful and faithful are the primary virtues, then what would constitute their complements? Like complementary colors, secondary virtues would need to balance the primary virtues, be an “opposite” in some way.  In the same way mercy should not rob justice, the primary virtues cannot rob their complementary virtues.  Thus,

  • Love cannot rob the need to remain true to basic principles, to be Virtuous
  • Faith, or confidence, cannot rob Humility, making us over-confident, and
  • Hopefulness cannot rob Honesty. It does no good to hope for something that will never happen.

The Basic Virtue Wheel

Graphic of the Basic Virtue Wheel
The Basic Virtue Wheel

Using the primary, and secondary virtues, I decided upon some possible tertiary virtue pairs, forming  a basic virtue wheel.

Perhaps Justice or exactness, and Mercy or leniency can be added to each of these primary virtues to create many more shades and tints of virtues.

Tertiary Colors: Meek and Courageous

Virtue Wheel V7_7 Courage and Meek
Tertiary Colors:  Meek and Courageous

Meekness, a willingness to suffer injustice in the name of Love, cannot prevent us from being Courageous in the face of adversity or that which is wrong.

Meekness is closely related to Humility, but whereas Humility is detached from its “oppressor,” Meekness is held out in love.  Thus Meekness is between Humility and Loving.

Courage is between Virtue and Faithful.  It has the confidence of Faith, and the independence to defend the right of Virtue.

Tertiary Colors: Diligent and Patient

Virtue Wheel V7_8 Diligent & Patient
Tertiary Colors:  Diligent and Patient

Patience demands that we be willing to wait for certain things.  It cannot rob Diligence, which requires continued striving in the face of opposition.

Being Diligent, between Faithful and Honest, requires the consistency of faithfulness, and the honest recognition that some things are not solved simply or easily; that the heart of the issue must be faced again, and again, and again.

Patience is between Humility and Hopeful.  Hopefulness anticipates good things.  Similarly, Patience is willing to wait for good things.  And Patience is willing to do so humbly, quietly, without having to be agreed with or understood.

Tertiary Colors: Joyful and Reverent

Virtue Wheel V7_9 Reverent and Joyful
Tertiary Colors:  Joyful and Reverent

We should be of good cheer, or in other words be Joyful. Yet our joyfulness cannot negate Reverence, a respect and seriousness about important things.

Reverence is between affection and Honesty because it is a type of love, but without the intimacy associated with Loving, in part because of honesty; being honest about our capabilities relative to another higher power.

Joyful is between Hope and Virtue, because it has an element of innocence to it, like Virtue, and yet is hopeful; the future is bright.

Virtues of Maturity and Child-like Virtues

Graphic of Mature and Child-like virtues
Virtues of Maturity and Child-like Virtues

Like dividing a color wheel into Warm and Cool colors, perhaps virtues can be classed as child-like virtues on the right and virtues of maturity on the left.

Quadrants: Experienced and Expectant

Graphic of Experienced and Expectant Quadrants
Quadrants: Experienced and Expectant

There seems to be a natural grouping by quadrant as well. Reverent, Honest, and Diligent are something we develop through our Experiences in time, whereas Joyful, Hopeful and Patient speak of being Expectant of good things to come.

Quadrants: Take Action and Acted Upon

Graphic of Take Action and Acted Upon Quadrants
Quadrants: Take Action and Acted Upon

Meek, Humble and Patient are required when we are disciplined or Submissive whereas their counterparts, Faith, Courage and Diligence bespeak of taking action or Assertive.

The Special Power of Love

Virtue Wheel V7 clear_41 Loving vs Virtue
The Power of Love

Love as a virtue is incredibly powerful. As evidence of this, consider that in love songs alone it has perhaps been spoken of more often than all other virtues in all other literature. The Virtue Wheel’s name for its complement–virtue–is a subtle suggestion that at times it can require the combined power of all the other virtues in the virtue wheel to complement and balance the power of love.

Other Attributes

A graphic focused on the center attributes
Other Attributes

Some virtues describe the “virtue wheel” because they are not complemented so much as speaking to how virtues relate to each other in our lives.


Two graphics showing integrity

Integrity speaks to the shape of the circle.  People with integrity are “integrated,” they have all the virtues and display the same “face” no matter the situation; they give a consistent response to a demand or a pressure every time.  Integrity is consistency.   People without integrity have a misshapen virtue wheel, inconsistently responding depending upon the circumstances.


A Graphic Temperance

Temperance speaks to the speed with which one moves from one side of the virtue wheel to another.  A temperate person does not over emphasize one virtue, avoids moving to the outside of the wheel, staying in the center, and moving deliberately from one virtue to another.

Holiness, Gratitude, Mindful

Graphic on three virtues
Holiness, Gratitude, Mindful

Holiness is at the center of the wheel, the white spot, touching upon and having each virtue.

Obedience and Wisdom

A canister-like graphic with virtues at top and vices at the bottom
Obedience and Wisdom

Obedience and Wisdom are foundational virtues; the virtue wheel is cylindrical, its bottom being vices, such as disbelief, despair, and pride.  Obedience and  wisdom undergird all virtues, dividing the top of the cylinder from the bottom.  Disobedience and foolishness cause vices.

The Vice Wheel

A graphic of related vices
The Vice Wheel

The vices at the bottom of the cylinder can be represented as their own Vice Wheel.

Virtues and Vices

Graphic of virtues at the center and vices outside
Virtues and Vices

Because any virtue taken to an extreme can become a vice, the vices can be represented as surrounding the virtue wheel.  Thus loving and caring taken too far can become dependent and lustful.  This is true of every virtue on the virtue wheel.

Primary Vices

Graphic of the primary vices
Primary Vices

Note that the vice wheel colors are upside down relative to the virtue wheel.  The primary vices are Arrogance or Hateful, Doubt or Fear, and Despair or Hurtful.  These are the secondary virtues taken to an extreme.

Thus the furthest point from any virtue is the vice for its complement.  Although the vice for Loving and Caring is Lustful or Dependent, the vice perhaps “opposite” it is Arrogant or Hateful.

Triadic Complements

A graphic about virtue, honest and humble
Triadic Complements

A common triadic complement used to combat Arrogance or Hatefulness is the secondary virtues of Humble or Teachable, and Honest or Realistic. 

When we tend towards arrogance, which is taking virtue or being principled too far, it is helpful to apply the combination of humility-–recognizing that we do not know everything—and honesty—an understanding of our true condition—to counter arrogance or hatefulness.

Color Wheel or Periodic Table

Virtue Wheel V7_24 Period Table
Color Wheel or Periodic Table

The analogy of the color wheel though is not quite perfect.

All colors in the spectrum can be made from the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow. But virtues aren’t like this. Honesty isn’t composed of some mixture of confidence and love; it is a virtue in its own right.

Thus perhaps rather than a color wheel, in this respect a better analogy is the periodic table of fundamental elements. In the periodic table, each element is listed individually with its unique characteristics; and through the periods (rows) or groups (columns) and blocks the relationship to other elements is shown.

The Periodic Table of Virtues

Virtue Wheel V7_25 Period Grouping
The Periodic Table of Virtues

Perhaps the periodic table of virtues would replace periods (rows), groups (columns) and blocks (by color) with the primary virtues.

Virtue Synonyms

Virtue Wheel V7_26 Synonyms Overview
Virtue Synonyms

Groups of primary, secondary, and tertiary virtues–the “elements” in our periodic table–are perhaps the synonyms or closely related words describing each of the virtues.

The Loving Block

Virtue Wheel V7_27 Synonyms Loving
Loving Synonyms
  • Kind
  • Courteous
  • Helpful
  • Loving/Charitable
  • Benevolent
  • Compassionate
  • Generous

The Confident Block

Virtue Wheel V7_37 Synonyms Confident
Confident Synonyms
  • Loyal
  • Faithful
  • Devoted
  • Firm
  • Steadfast
  • Unified
  • Confident
  • Enduring
  • Steady
  • Active
  • Dependable
  • Immovable
  • Involved
  • Constant

The Hopeful Block

Virtue Wheel V7_29 Synonyms Hope
Hopeful Synonyms
  • Hopeful
  • Believing
  • Trusting
  • Positive
  • Creative
  • Optimistic

The Virtuous Block

Virtue Wheel V7_36 Synonyms Virtue
Virtuous Synonyms
  • Clean
  • Thrifty
  • Pure/Virtuous
  • Chaste
  • Blameless
  • Harmless
  • Innocent
  • Unspotted
  • Beautiful
  • Chosen
  • Exemplar
  • Good
  • Peculiar
  • Spotless
  • Worthy
  • Comely
  • Wholesome

The Humble Block

Virtue Wheel V7_32 Synonyms Humble
Humble Synonyms
  • Humble
  • Poor in Spirit
  • Teachable
  • Modest
  • Respectful
  • Submissive
  • Willing

The Honest Block

Virtue Wheel V7_33 Synonyms Honest
Honest Synonyms
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Understanding
  • Truthful
  • Convincing
  • Edifying
  • Persuasive
  • Studious

The Diligent Block

Virtue Wheel V7_38 Synonyms Diligent
Diligent Synonyms
  • Diligent
  • Hard working
  • Industrious
  • Responsible
  • Vigilant
  • Committed
  • Dedicated
  • Fervent
  • Perseverative
  • Self-Controlled
  • Watchful
  • Earnest

The Patient Block

Virtue Wheel V7_30 Synonyms Patience
Patient Synonyms
  • Patient
  • Peaceable
  • Contented
  • Long suffering
  • Quiet
  • Restful
  • Calm
  • Plain
  • Simple
  • Still
  • Waiting

The Courageous Block

Virtue Wheel V7_34 Synonyms Courage
Courageous Synonyms
  • Brave
  • Courageous
  • Strong
  • True
  • Bold
  • Honorable
  • Mighty
  • Noble
  • Patriotic
  • Valiant
  • Dignified
  • Powerful
  • Unchangeable

The Gentle Block

Virtue Wheel V7_28 Synonyms Meek
Gentle Synonyms
  • Meek
  • Gentle
  • Peacemaker
  • Broken-hearted
  • Contrite-spirited
  • Persecuted
  • Afflicted
  • Dutiful
  • Forgiving
  • Lowly in heart
  • Chastened
  • Mild

The Reverent Block

Virtue Wheel V7_31 Synonyms Reverent
Reverent Synonyms
  • Reverent (Fear God)
  • Thankful
  • Prayerful
  • Grateful
  • Sincere
  • Solemn
  • Worshipful

The Joyful Block

Virtue Wheel V7_35 Synonyms Joyful
Joyful Synonyms
  • Cheerful
  • Friendly
  • Joyful
  • Hospitable
  • Glad
  • Happy
  • Merry
  • Civil
  • Delightsome
  • Pleasant

Other Virtues

Virtue Wheel V7_39 Synonyms Other
Other Virtue Synonyms
  • Wise
    • Knowledgeable
    • Enlightened
    • Smart
    • Intelligent
  • Obedient
    • Righteous
    • Upright
  • Temperate
    • Sober
    • Moderate
  • Holy
    • Godly
    • Perfect

Virtue Measurement

Virtue Wheel V7_40 Element Example
Virtue Measurement

If the virtues could be arranged into a periodic table, might it be possible to measure them, the way the chemical elements are measured, with specific mass, atomic number, and electron configurations?

What might be those measurements?

The Virtue Wheel

The Virtue Wheel graphic
The Virtue Wheel

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