Context: Tenderness and kindness suffuse the world: "the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether." This universal feeling of love and amity gives us many benefits: "Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection." "A just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling," makes the world seem young and beautiful. Friends are a gift from God. "Who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine,–a possession for all time." Friends add "new and noble depths" to life. We naturally tend to idealize a friend: "His goodness seems better than our goodness. . . ." We all spend our lives "in the search after friendship," but we lose many friends because we do not realize that the "laws of friendship are austere and eternal. . . . But we have aimed at a swift and petty benefit, to suck a sudden sweetness. . . . Love, which is the essence of God, is not for levity, but for the total worth of man." Wisdom is a vital component of lasting friendship:
I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself, whereof all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell. Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well be built, like a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a single day. Happier, if he know the solemnity of that relation, and honor its law! . . .