ask if you heard the result of Cousin Bill’s test, then she—and probably others in the family as well—are feeling pretty anxious Here is one important caveat: if you are a leader or an im-

portant figure in any group of people and it dawns on you that you aren’t hearing any gossip, it might be because people are gossiping about you. Or as Pastor Hank expressed it, “I was think- ing things were going great because the main complainers in my congregation had stopped coming to tell me what I was doing wrong. Then it dawned on me, these folks are strictly complainers and if they weren’t complaining to me, then they were complain- ing to someone else about me!”

Finally, fourth, as Desmond demonstrated, the gossip highway

is a two-way road. That is, the same network of communication that brings you comments and information can be used to pass backwards the things you’d like to express. These intentional mes- sages, like the “secret engagement” story Desmond told Millie, are called “gossip bombs.” It’s almost always the case that there is someone in every close family, every religious congregation, every small office, every closely associated group of people whose unspoken duty it is to keep everyone up-to-date on the latest information. By taking that person “into your confidence,” as Desmond confided in Millie, you can be sure to get information related throughout the gossip chain.

Pastor Hank, mentioned above, discovered that members of his congregation were fearfully discussing the possibility that he and his family might move to a different church. This totally untrue gossip thread was started, unsurprisingly, by the speculations of

a chatty member who had decided that Hank was frowning too much and therefore must want to move on to greener pastures. Once he figured out where the rumor started, Hank paid a visit to the perpetrator and, after a casual conversation, took her “into his confidence,” saying he was going to make a big announcement at the end of his sermon on Sunday. Attendance was unusually good and the congregation marvelously attentive as the preacher finished his remarks by saying, “You may have forgotten that my fifth anniversary as your pastor is right around the corner. I want to announce that we are having an open house after church that Sunday to celebrate the beginning of my next five years as your minister!” The bottom line is that gossip is going to happen. It is a nec- essary element of maintaining our emotional stability. When we understand this and recognize that gossip can be a useful tool, gossip itself becomes less pernicious. Still, let’s just keep this to ourselves, okay?

Dr. Mike Simpson will offer a three-hour seminar entitled “Mend- ing Your Family for the Holidays” at the Shepherd’s Center in Winston-Salem on Thursday, March 29, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $25 and reservations can be made by contacting him or the Shepherd’s Center (336 748-0217). A “third generation” Family Systems practitioner, Simpson is the founder of Fix Your Family and a Family Wellness Coach who has used Family Systems to work with individuals and groups for the past 25 years. The author of the book Fix Your Family, he can be contacted through his website (, email ( or phone (336 257-9276). See ad on page 23.


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