I absentmindedly walked into a bike lane in Manhattan, forcing a biker to swerve around me. I recoiled in horrified shame, yelling "I'm so sorry! I'm an idiot! Are you okay?"
Over his shoulder, he roared, "You fucking asshole, why don't you look where you're going?"
I quickly realized that this person was an angel, perhaps even a sort of messiah. If he'd gamely nodded at me in weary resignation, I'd have felt awful all day. But his reaction absolved me of all guilt. I felt light as a feather.
The unwillingness to accept sincere apologies is a hallmark of lousy character, but it also affords the highest possible absolution. The biker had taken me utterly off the hook, leaving me completely unburdened.
At his own expense, to boot. He'd taken on my guilt, my burden, my sin, my karma.
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