“No amount of good deeds can make up for a bad attitude.” This comes from a movie script and said by a character known as Optimus Prime, who is also known in Japan as “Convoy,” a fictional character from the Transformers franchise. However, even though spoken by a robot, it was written by a human and, therefore, is worthy of examination.
We see this played out almost everyday when someone tries to make up to a person of whom they said or did something that made them feel bad or look bad in the eyes of others. I guess it would take a huge calculator to add up all the times in history that a husband has tried to calm down his wife for something he did or didn’t do that made her angry. But until the bad attitude is taken care of, the bad words and deeds will keep on being repeated.
Not much is written about his in psychology literature because there are so many variables and situations to deal with. But there are articles on why we should apologize and say “I’m sorry.” For one thing, it helps build respect. It’s a two-way street. By saying I’m sorry it shows that you have respect for the person you offended. Then you’ll asking for forgiveness help build their respect for you.
Another thing that happens by saying I’m sorry, is that it breaks down barriers in the relationship so that both can move on to better things. Acknowledging your own mistakes helps you grow and mature. Saying I’m sorry also provides a stronger foundation for the relationship to build on. Look at it this way, offenses are like cracks in the foundation that need to be repaired before the building can continue. And the one element that can repair these cracks is Love.
And each time you say I’m sorry, it makes both of you feel more comfortable and your own integrity is improved so that others will trust you more. If they know how quickly you recognize when you’ve said or did something that embarrassed them and apologize, the more they are willing to forgive. And saying I’m sorry helps bring relief when taken as a promise that you won’t do it again. Even if they are not as quick in accepting your apology, you know you’ve done the right thing.
But there’s a trap involved in each one of these, as Optimus Prime points out, don’t apologize just to get the issue behind you. The more often you apologize and then make no changes in your attitude, the less people will believe you when you say I’m sorry. No matter how many times a person apologizes for yelling “he’s got a gun!” in a crowded theater, if they keep on doing the same thing over and over, then no one will believe them if someone does, in fact, have a gun. As Benjamin Franklin once said, never ruin an apology with an excuse.
But the Bible is not silent on this subject. Jesus explained that when we try to look religious in hopes it will cause people to respect us, when we know there is some word or deed we need to apologize for and haven’t done it, all our praise and worship, testimonies and prayers will not make up for it.1
And the Apostle James tell us to always tell each other the wrong things we have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal us. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen.2 In other words, not being ready to say I’m sorry will affect your spiritual life as well as your daily life.
But all of this is of little value if it’s only used as a temporary fix to a bigger problem. It’s like putting a small band-aid on a ruptured artery. There must be a change in our attitude. Try to find out what makes us do these things again and again. The Bible gives us a real clues. For instance, King Solomon reminds us that what comes out of our mouth can be either that which promotes life or that which leads to violence.3 And Jesus endorses this same idea when He called the arrogant Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers who were trying to use their tongues to say something nice while they were so awful inside. It’s the hurtful things you say or do that really tells us what’s in your heart.4
So giving you wife a bouquet of flowers or handing you children a dollar bill just to make up for something hurtful that you said or did is not enough. Even apologizing is just the start, not the finish of the needed process. We should all keep this prayer of King David in mind: Search my heart, O God, let me know what’s in my heart; test me so I can know what makes me anxious or upset. Point out to me anything that offends you or others, and lead me to the good path that goes on forever.5 – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Matthew 5:23-24
2 James 5:16
3 Proverbs 10:11
4 Matthew 12:34
5 Psalm 139:23-24