John was calling to say that he couldn't come to my wedding. He had won a sales contest at his job, the prize was a Caribbean vacation, and the departure date was the same as our wedding date. He apologized sincerely, he hated to miss the wedding, but he had put a lot of planning and energy into winning the Caribbean trip. I understood, I wasn't mad, and I tried to turn the conversation to other topics, news of our lives. But John kept reiterating how sorry he was, how much he regretted the date conflict, and not being there on my big day. Finally I said, "No hard feelings," and I realized those were the exact words he needed to hear out of my mouth. His relief was palpable as soon as I spoke the words, the sentence of absolution. The whole conversation was designed to get me to say it, and would have continued all day if necessary until I said it.