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Who Do We Trust?

What does the film ‘Finding Nemo’ have to say about trust?

by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2011)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the concept of trust.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the students whether any of them have ever watched Finding Nemo, a Pixar film that was very popular a few years ago.

    Show one or both of the YouTube videos about Finding Nemo.

  2. Explain that there are several themes running through the film, but today’s assembly is going to consider the theme of trust.

  3. Summarize the plot of Finding Nemo as follows.

    Marlin is a clownfish who is afraid of the ocean due to a previous terrible experience. Then, his son, Nemo, is taken by divers and Marlin sets off on a mission to find his son and bring him home.

    On his journey, Marlin meets Dory, a blue tang with short-term memory loss. Dory tags along, much to Marlins dismay, and they form an unlikely friendship.

    Dory has little fear and Marlin, who is full of fear, struggles to accept what she says. There are several times when Marlin fails to trust Dory, even though, ultimately, she is right.

    In one instance, Dory has been told by a shoal of fish to swim along a trench, not over it, so she asks Marlin to trust her because thats what friends do. However, the route along the trench looks dark and frightening, so Marlin is reluctant to go that way. Due to his fear, he convinces Dory to swim over the top. They end up in a jellyfish bloom – a huge mass of jellyfish – and Dory very nearly loses her life. She is left with scars from the encounter.

    Later, when Dory asks Marlin to trust her again, he starts to object, but sees the scars left from the jellyfish and realizes that he has to trust her.

  4. Ask the students to consider the following questions.

    - Why is it so difficult for some people to trust others?
    - Why is it important for us to trust people?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  5. Point out that small children rarely have a problem with trusting people. They accept that people are trustworthy until they learn otherwise.

  6. In relationships, trust can often be lost because of someones failure to do something that the other finds important.

    Trusting people requires us to believe in their reliability and truthfulness. Trust is a major building block of interpersonal relationships. We can build trust as well as breaking it down.

  7. Often, we learn not to trust someone as a result of a bad experience. Perhaps we have told them something in private and they have betrayed our trust by telling others.

    Trust has to be earned and it is the basis of every relationship that we have. As we trust someone more, the relationship deepens, we become closer friends and we let that person into areas of our life that we might not if we didn’t trust them in the same way. That is how permanent, committed relationships are made and kept, often for many years.

  8. Of course, trust can also have less serious applications, such as trusting the weather forecasters predictions or trusting our teachers to teach us the right things so that we can gain knowledge and, ultimately, pass our exams!

  9. Ask the students to consider the question: ‘How do you know if you are a trustworthy person?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    Point out that only we know for sure if we can be trusted!

  10. Explain that we need to be sensible when we are deciding who to trust.

    Ask the students to consider the following scenarios.

    - Would you give a two-year-old something precious and trust them not to break it?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    We probably would not do this: the child might break it because they don’t yet understand the value of something precious.

    - Would you expect your partner or friend not to break something precious?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

    Most of us probably would trust our partner or friend because they are older and more likely to take care of something that is precious to us.

  11. The fact is that before we trust someone, we need to weigh up several things.

    - Do they really care for us?
    - Have they been trustworthy in the past?
    - How do they treat other people?

  12. We need to earn other people’s trust. If we let them down repeatedly, they will lose trust in us. For example, if our parents trust us to be where we tell them and then they find out that we are not telling the truth, they will be more reluctant to trust us next time.

Time for reflection

Mostly, we instinctively know those we can trust and those we can’t, but sometimes, our trust is misplaced. Someone may have a different understanding of what trust is, and when their understanding and ours dont match up, trust can break down.

To trust someone and then be betrayed is very hurtful. Love songs are full of betrayals and relationship breakdowns because, when a betrayal happens, it is often a loss of trust that leads to the relationship ending.

In All’s Well That Ends Well, William Shakespeare wrote, ‘Love all, trust a few.’ Many put their trust in God. Indeed, billions of people do so every day and this has been so for thousands of years.

So, who will we put our trust in today? How will we know when we can trust someone? The point is that we wont really know – we have to take that leap of faith and trust that someone will take care of us and respect us enough not to betray the trust that we have placed in them.

If we know that we havent been as trustworthy as we expect others to be, perhaps that will cause us to stop and wonder whether we would like it if someone betrayed our trust in the same way.

Let’s remember that all of our relationships work on trust – both being trustworthy ourselves and trusting others – and that trust is fragile. We have to work hard to gain it, but we have to work even harder to build it again after a betrayal.

Dear Lord,
May we be as trustworthy towards others as we would like them to be towards us.

Publication date: March 2020   (Vol.22 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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