How to Avoid the Dark Side of Virtue

Virtues, those admirable traits we respect in ourselves and others, such as honesty, courage, and kindness, can be a double-edged sword. Did you know that even virtues have a dark side? When virtues are taken to an extreme or entirely neglected, they transform into vices. This blog post will delve into the nuances of balancing our virtues and steering clear of their pitfalls.

Defining Virtue and Vice

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a virtue is “a quality considered morally good or desirable in a person” (“Virtue,” n.d.). Some examples of virtues are patience, justice, and wisdom. Virtues are often seen as the foundation of moral character and ethical behavior.

A vice, on the other hand, is “a weakness of character or behavior; a bad habit” (“Vice,” n.d.). Some examples of vices are greed, anger, and ignorance. Vices are often seen as the source of moral corruption and evil actions.

“Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.”

How Virtues Can Become Vices

The nature of a virtue is that a vice is almost always hidden inside. In the current view of personality, our traits are no longer seen as binary—you are either conscientious or you’re not—but as dimensional, existing on a continuum (Psychology Today, 2013). This means that we can have too much or too little of any trait, including virtues.

If we take a virtue to an extreme, we risk turning it into a vice of excess. For example, if we are too honest, we might become rude or insensitive. If we are too courageous, we might become reckless or foolhardy. If we are too kind, we might become naive or servile.

Furthermore, if we neglect a virtue altogether, we risk turning it into a vice of deficiency. For example, if we are not honest enough, we might become deceitful or hypocritical. If we are not courageous enough, we might become cowardly or timid. If we are not kind enough, we might become cruel or indifferent.

On website and in its accompanying books, each of the four temperaments (Blue, Gold, Green, and Orange) has their own set of 13 virtues that appeal to their preferences. In the four tables below, the center column contains the virtue, the left column contains what the virtue would look like if it was minimized into a vice, and the right column shows what it would look like if the virtue was maximized into a vice.

Blue Virtues & Vices

Too Little Virtue Too Much
Aloofness Accessibility Intrusiveness
Cruelty Compassion Pity
Hostility Friendliness Clinginess
Harshness Gentleness Weakness
Ingratitude Gratitude Servility
Arrogance Humility Self-Abasement
Cynicism Idealism Naivety
Neglect Nurturing Smothering
Dishonesty Sincerity Bluntness
Thoughtlessness Thoughtfulness Overthinking
Intolerance Tolerance Permissiveness
Distrust Trust Gullibility
Division Unity Conformity

Gold Virtues & Vices

Too Little Virtue Too Much
Passivity Assertiveness Aggressiveness
Indifference Concern Anxiety
Laxity Discipline Rigidity
Dishonor Honor Pride
Injustice Justice Vengeance
Excess Moderation Deficiency
Disobedience Obedience Subservience
Chaos Orderliness Compulsiveness
Quitting Persistence Stubbornness
Imprudence Prudence Timidity
Aimlessness Purposefulness Obsession
Unreliability Reliability Dependence
Instability Stability Stagnation

Green Virtues & Vices

Too Little Virtue Too Much
Inaccuracy Accuracy Pedantry
Dependence Autonomy Isolation
Agitation Composure Apathy
Distraction Concentration Fixation
Insecurity Confidence Over-Confidence
Boredom Curiosity Nosiness
Inefficiency Efficiency Haste
Ignorance Expertise Arrogance
Shortsightedness Foresight Paranoia
Dullness Ingenuity Eccentricity
Impracticality Pragmatism Cynicism
Irrationality Reason Coldness
Foolishness Wisdom Pretentiousness

Orange Virtues & Vices

Too Little Virtue Too Much
Rigidity Adaptability Fickleness
Clumsiness Adroitness Cunning
Deceit Candor Rudeness
Cowardice Courage Recklessness
Bondage Freedom Licentiousness
Procrastination Immediacy Impulsiveness
Insignificance Impact Interference
Passivity Initiative Intrusiveness
Pessimism Optimism Delusion
Underperformance Performance Overwork
Ineffectiveness Persuasiveness Manipulation
Seriousness Playfulness Frivolity
Lethargy Vitality Hyperactivity

Achieving Balance in Virtues

To achieve balance in our virtues, it is crucial to cultivate moderation and discernment. Practicing moderation involves steering clear of extremes, while discernment requires the application of reason and judgment to identify what is appropriate and advantageous for ourselves and others.

Aristotle’s golden mean principle provides one approach for practicing moderation and discernment. This ancient concept posits that virtue resides at the midpoint between two vices: one representing deficiency and the other excess (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2022). For instance, courage finds its golden mean between cowardice and recklessness; honesty between rudeness and deceit; and kindness between naivety and cruelty. By recognizing when we are veering towards either vice, we can realign our actions to maintain equilibrium.

Discovering the virtuous middle ground also involves evaluating situations and potential consequences. By assessing the advantages and drawbacks of various options, we can select the most rational and beneficial course of action for ourselves and others. In addition, seeking the guidance of those with wisdom, experience, or expertise in a particular virtue can provide valuable insights. Welcoming feedback on our behavior and performance enables us to remain receptive to constructive criticism and growth.

Moreover, refining our abilities in moderation and discernment can be achieved by avoiding extreme behaviors that may harm ourselves or others. By being mindful of our desires and impulses, we can manage them in a healthy manner. Developing discernment allows us to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong, and act in accordance with these distinctions. While philosophy, religion, law, and science all contribute to our understanding of moral principles, our conscience serves as an internal guide to keep us on the right path.

Utilizing these strategies, we can strike a balance among our virtues and evade their negative aspects. Observing and learning from individuals who exemplify virtuous behavior can also be enlightening, while distancing ourselves from those who display vicious conduct. Seeking feedback from others can assist us in identifying our strengths and areas in need of improvement.

“It takes a vice to check a vice, and virtue is the by-product of a stalemate between opposite vices.”

Additional Strategies

Developing self-awareness plays a crucial role in maintaining a balance among our virtues. By understanding our tendencies and recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, we can better identify areas where we might be at risk of veering into vice. Regular self-reflection can be an effective tool for keeping ourselves in check and maintaining a healthy balance of virtues.

As mentioned earlier, each of the four temperaments (Blue, Gold, Green, and Orange) has a set of virtues that appeal to their preferences. While we may naturally gravitate towards the virtues of our own temperament, we can also benefit from embracing and practicing the virtues of other personality types. This can help us broaden our perspectives, improve our relationships, and enhance our overall well-being.

Another essential aspect of balancing our virtues is fostering a supportive community. Surrounding ourselves with people who share our values and are committed to personal growth can help us stay on track and remain accountable to our goals. Engaging in honest conversations, participating in group activities, and providing mutual support are just a few ways that a strong community can help us cultivate our virtues and avoid their dark sides.

Final Thoughts

Balancing our virtues and avoiding their dark sides is an ongoing journey that requires self-awareness, discipline, and a commitment to personal growth. By practicing moderation, discernment, and incorporating the wisdom of different personality types, we can develop a well-rounded character that contributes positively to our lives and the lives of others.

Remember, the key is not to aim for perfection but to strive for a balance that allows us to flourish and make meaningful connections with others. So take the time to reflect on your virtues, acknowledge your weaknesses, and embrace the process of growth and self-improvement.


“Vice.” (n.d.). In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from

“Virtue.” (n.d.). In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from

Psychology Today. (2013). The Personality Continuum. Retrieved from

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2022). Aristotle’s Ethics. Retrieved from

Leave a Comment