Although kindness is sometimes seen as an emotional state, akin to affection or love, many people view it through the lens of behavioural traits. This probably goes back to ancient times when attempts were first made to define what it is. According to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, being kind means to be helpful to somebody else in need. Crucially, however, the act of being kind must not be in the interests of the person being helpful in any way. Aristotle defined this as not asking for anything in return as well as gaining no advantage from the act of kindness itself. In this sense, being kind is really a form of altruism
Nonetheless, these older definitions do not always stand up to scrutiny in the modern age. Being kind could include some form of reciprocity, after all. This might be when one person is kind, so the person who has received such benevolence is more likely to be kinder to those around him or her. This way of thinking about being kind may be more in keeping with Eastern concepts of loving-kindness. In this tradition, being kind is a universal gift that spirals out into the world – and beyond – for the good of all. It is hard to reconcile this sort of viewpoint with Aristotelian concepts of altruistic benevolence given that some aspects of being kind will redound back on the person who initiated it. That said, some thinkers and writers have tried to unify these two visions of kindness.
In the digital age, some movements have tried to encourage people to take a kinder approach to one another. This includes some social media campaigns that have sought to deal with some of the toxicity in online public discourse, especially trolling. Hashtags like #bekind have been added to many social media posts in recent years to highlight a more thoughtful and respectful approach.