I’ve been so impressed by the small town rumor mill; I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It used to upset me, but I’ve come to be impressed by it. There isn’t a single person in this town that I’ve asked about the rumor mill that hasn’t laughed and agreed that our ability to turn a tale is quite robust. The silver lining of a rumor mill is the creativity expressed by it. Granted that creativity is a bit distorted, but creativity nonetheless. With an almost weekly occurrence, I learn things about myself and my family that even I didn’t know! Not only did I not have an awareness of these details, but they simply have not been true. But it seems that truth is not the driving force behind the rumors; they typically persist because we would rather live in fantasy than reality. Ending a rumor is easy; simply ask the person about whom the rumor is. I might understand the perpetuance of the rumor mill a little better if putting an end to it was difficult, but because it is relatively easy, I ask the question, “What does an overactive rumor mill say about our culture?”
According to an article in Psychology Today, rumor mills exist for nine reasons. I don’t have the space to regurgitate all nine, but each reason on some level had to do with the lack or confusion of personal or cultural identity. This is fascinating. A persistent rumor mill is simply proof that we don’t know or don’t like who we are and would rather persist in a false reality than do the hard work of rediscovering or recreating ourselves. We all go through times in our lives when we forget our true identity - a marriage falls apart, a job is lost, a relationship is denied - and we lose our center. The spiritual practices that once worked for us no longer work. We burn out from too much work. For various reasons, our town and our culture falls into survival mode.
My family has witnessed this twice in the last four years. The family member who lost sight of their true self was me. I forgot who I was, and I needed a reset. My family had the patience and wisdom to help me get back to me. Often the loss of identity leads to really bad decisions on a societal or personal level, ironically motivated by survival. If we persist in them for too long, we are deceived into thinking these bad decisions work, not unlike Stockholm syndrome. By the time we come to the realization that the choices we have made are more harmful and not at all what we want, we feel stuck, unable to unlock our true destiny. Truthfully, we still can, it justs takes a lot of hard work which often seems too risky. So, rather than risk the hard work of finding ourselves, we settle for a pseudo-life often energized by the pillars and principles of rumors. It is easier to persist on a lie than live in the truth because the truth often forces us to deal with our own brokenness. Honestly, who wants to face that?
The foundation of a better life is coming to grips with who we are, which is harder than creating rumors about someone else. Once we come to grips with it and begin the brave work of envisioning a better reality, we then have the task of building that tomorrow (self, marriage, town, business, system). So how do we tell a better story? Step out of the rumor mill and find the real you!