On Sunday, someone told me a story of something that happened in their life and they said at the end of their story, “Fear is something that is very damaging to relationships.” I agreed with them. When I’m afraid, it tends to cause us to try to control other people, and other people pull away in the relationship. I saw this illustrated in  a movie I watched with my kids called “Finding Nemo.” In the movie the father is trying to control his son and it is driving the son away. You have probably seen the movie; here is the dialogue I am referring to.

Dad: Nemo, no!


Nemo: Dad?


Dad: You were about to swim into open water!


Nemo: No, I wasn’t going to go out there.


Dad: It’s just a good thing I was here.


Nemo: But Dad, no!


Dad: If I hadn’t shown up, I don’t know…


Kid Fish #1: Sir, he wasn’t going to go.


Kid Fish #2: Yeah, he was too afraid.


Nemo: No, I wasn’t.


Dad: This does not concern you kids, and you’re lucky I don’t tell your parents you were out there.  You know you can’t swim well.


Nemo: I can swim fine Dad, okay?


Dad: No, it’s not okay.  You shouldn’t be anywhere near here.  Okay, I was right.  You know what?  We’ll start school in a year or two.


Nemo: No Dad, just because you’re scared of the ocean…


Dad: Clearly, you’re not ready and you’re not coming back here until you are.  You think you can do these things, but you just can’t Nemo.


Nemo: I hate you.

“I hate you.”  When people say that in a relationship, it is probably a sign that somebody is trying to control somebody else.  And what’s beneath that desire for control?  Most likely it is fear.  In the movie, the father is desperately afraid for Nemo because of something that happened to Nemo’s mother.  But his insecurity causes him to try and control Nemo and that just pushes his son away.

I expect that many of us have had that kind of experience in one way or another. I have been on both sides of these relationship. Living in relational fear and living with relational control. Both are unhealthy places for us and cause us to become disconnected.

Have you experienced this in your life?

Are there ways that we do this in our relationships with friends and church connections or is this mostly a family experience?