Stephanie Dowrick is an Australian bestselling author, a psychoanalyst, and an interfaith minister. Her books include Choosing Happiness, Seeking the Sacred, and In the Company of Rilke. You can visit her at

Kindness ranks high in the list of virtues advocated by all the world's religions. It is the first of the three treasures espoused by Lao Tzu. The Buddha taught that generosity, a mark of kindness, is a primary quality of an awakened mind. Muhammad regarded kindness as an essential sign of faith. Jewish and Christian ethics are built upon deeds of kindness, as are the daily interactions of people of primal traditions.

As Dowrick points out in the opening pages of this valuable resource (see the excerpt at right), kindness covers a wide range of actions, ideals, and practices in everyday life. The paperback is divided into sections on personal power, self-confidence, relationships, identity, children and their parents, moods, and work.

As in all her books, Dowrick has a knack for covering a broad range of subjects with the thoroughness and energy of a beginner who is animated by enthusiasm. We liked essays on the following themes, which provoked us to deeper thought:

• being kind to ourselves
• freeing oneself from the snarls of negativity
• kindness as a beauty treatment
• meeting the needs of others who yearn to be appreciated
• sticking one's neck out
• trying to salvage a marriage with kindness
• defying perfectionism
• following instinct and intuition

In this lyrical and stirring passage, Dowrick spells out the power of kindness:

"The greatest power we have is to lift the spirits of other people through our choices and behavior — to enhance their lives, and our own.

"The greatest responsibility we have is to choose wisely — not just when we feel like it.

"The greatest liberty we have is to behave kindly and respectfully without needing a prize or praise — simply because we are free to do so.

"The greatest ease we have comes when we can forgive others for their human failings and complexity — and ourselves.

"The greatest peace we have is when we can play our vital part in creating harmony between ourselves and other people, regardless of differences.

" 'I wish the very best for you' is a significant promise of love. It's one worth keeping."