I tell you I care for you, which must seem to you at first (both because it is and because it isn’t) a lesser thing than saying I love you. For, in caring for you, I offer you-not necessarily the ambiguous and dangerous eros of my passions (which we both equally fear and desire)– but the more thoughtful and quiet (and also, therefore, less compelling) steadiness (and the accompanying sense of obligation) of my caritas… my protection. I promise you that I will be „care-full“ with you, that I will handle you with care– in other words, I implicitly promise not to hurt you into either ecstasy or betrayal.

Caring for you, I obligate myself to become the object of my own thoughtfulness. I have taken you into (or, as is more frequently the case in the animal world, under) my care: I have somehow, either by offer or acquiescence, acceded to becoming your protector. When you ask me to „be careful“ with you (and I agree to be), you ask of me that I become a kind of fiduciary to your emotions… you entrust yourself to me. (This, of course, is why the words care and trust are so frequently coupled and confused in our emotional lives, and why David is able to say, in Psalm l42, „refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.“)

It is for this reason, no doubt, that the verb „care“ is not spoken even once in The Book of Common Prayer’s wedding ceremony, while such other verbs as live together, love, comfort, honor, keep, be faithful to and forsake abound. It may also account for the fact that the words I love you (along with the word God!) are those most frequently uttered in the haste of sexual heat, whereas no one (I’d wager my life) has ever uttered the words „I care for you“ in the height of passion.

So that anyone who has been „in love“ more than once ought to know enough to heavily discount the value of such currency… just as anyone who has ever uttered the words „I care for you“ and failed to do so must feel a terrible heaviness in his throat each time, in a moment of calm, he is tempted to speak.

For who but a fool– or a saint– would easily take on such a burden… or entrust it to another?