A Lesson on Small Town Gossip (Yup… I’m Going There…)

Written By: Dorothy Stephenson

Here’s the thing… If you live in a small town, people are going to talk.

You’ve got your Aunt Bea’s, who whisper little things to each other. Sometimes it’s out of caring, sometimes it’s out of judgment. And, sometimes it’s “innocent” simply because they’ve done it so long they don’t know how to stop. (Not an excuse, but…)

There’s the “Opie’s,” who are good-hearted, want to please, have a desire to do good, but they still mess up every now and again.

And, if we’re lucky, there are a few Andy’s around rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at the rest of us. Immediately forgiving us (hopefully) for dumb things we do simply because we don’t stop to think and love first. (Hey… we’re humans… but we can be better.)

Hopefully, a lot of us can be like Floyd. I mean, he gossips, which isn’t good, but usually when Andy points out he’s being unfair, Floyd hangs his head a bit low, admits his mistakes, and is willing to go above and beyond to correct himself and make up for any wrong-doing. At Floyd’s core, there is love, but more often than not, “Floyd’s” get swept up in the workings of “Barney’s.”

The “Barney’s.” Oh… the “Barney’s” The ones who hear one tiny thing, take it, run with it, and build on it convincing themselves what’s coming from their mouth is actually accurate. And, what’s worse? Others believe them!! Despite the theme of this post, I’m not a huge Andy Griffith fan. A big reason for that is because of Barney. He annoys the crap out of me for the reasons I listed above.

I mean, if you need a serious lesson on small town gossip, just watch any episode, which is probably most, where Barney gets worked up about something.

Here’s what happens:

  1. Barney hears or over-hears something he immediately passes judgment on.
  2. He, then, goes back and tells Andy, who tells Barney not to make a big deal of it. At that point, Barney, of course, doesn’t listen…
  3. OR Barney doesn’t tell Andy, gets others involved and riled up, and ends up making a huge mess where townsfolk are mad at each other for no reason at all. (Sound familiar?)
  4. Finally, once Andy figures out just exactly how much mischief Barney caused, he scolds Barney, tells him what a mess he’s made, and then Andy fixes everything.

Unfortunately, that’s the part of The Andy Griffith Show that is fictional – an “Andy” that magically makes everything better. Another unfortunate fact about the series is – there’s only one Barney for every Mayberry.

Here’s the real deal: The are many Barney’s. Some Barney’s are hard-core; however, others of us forget ourselves and slip into “Barney Mode” every now and again. And, while there are Andy’s that try to fix things, they’re no where near a successful peacemaker as the real Andy Griffith.

So, what does that mean? Barney’s, when not kept in check, can ruin a town’s community spirit.

And, here’s another ugly fact – There are innocent “Barney’s,” who really don’t mean any harm, but there are those “Bad Barney’s” that absolutely live to spread gossip. I mean, it is on their daily agenda, written in pen in their day planner, to find out all the juicy news, pass judgment, criticize, and give a stink-eye behind the person’s back. And then, to add insult to injury for a person who’s having issues, these “Bad Barney’s” see the people they’re talking about on the street and are nice to them! What?!


Yeah, it sucks, but it’s the dang truth.

And, I hate to think about it!

I’d rather believe all people are Aunt Bea’s, or Opie’s, or Floyd’s. I believe most of them are, but unfortunately, not all.

And, if you ask me, I ain’t got time for “Bad Barney’s” I mean, seriously, Bad Barney, if all you’ve got to do is spread negativity, then the best thing you can do is hit the road, Jack. And, don’t ya come back.

Personally, I’m done with it. D-O-N-E!

So, how do we stop the “Bad Barney’s?” How do we cut down on the small-town gossip we all hate so much? How can a few simple actions increase our daily positive outlook, reduce stress, and boost our community spirit?


Here’s my big challenges for you (and, I’ll be doing it, too):

  • The next time someone starts their sentence with something along the lines of “Did you hear???” then take Barney’s own advice: “Nip it in the bud!!!”
  • Instead of immediately passing judgment on someone, take a step back and think: “Is what I’m hearing really factual? I mean, the person who’s telling me this might be someone I trust, but maybe even they were misinformed? I’ll have to find out the true facts on my own.” And, then do it!
  • Don’t start any, (I mean, ANY) sentence with the phrase: “I heard…” If you do, it ain’t good because you’re spreading something that isn’t confirmed fact.
  • Put yourself in their shoes: If you were going through a hard time, would you really want other people talking about it? Noooooo…. Respect privacy. You don’t have to know every detail about a person’s problems. All you need to know is they’re having trouble, and the only person you need to be talking about them to is God. (Or your religious counterpart.)


FACT #1: If you’re big enough to talk about someone’s issues, you’re big enough to make sure what you’re saying is true.

FACT #2: Not everything you hear is true. I mean, there may be some kind of truth to it, but if a “Bad Barney” has stepped into the grapevine at some point, you can pretty much bet your best bull, it’s at least 80-90% false. And, I guarantee you can bet your best cow that you don’t know all the details.

FACT #3: No one is perfect, and humans screw up. We’ve all done it. We’ve all had times of weakness. So, let me ask you this, in your times of weakness, what helps more? Knowing people are talking about you, or having someone come to you and say, “I know you’re going through a difficult time, and I’m so sorry. I don’t need to know the details, but if you need anything, I’m here for you.” Golden rule, folks… Golden. Rule.

FACT #4: People with the best of intentions don’t deserve to be judged harshly. Sometimes people are actually trying so… darn… hard… to do good and to do the right thing, but they still mess up or may not meet a judging person’s expectations. Aunt Bea might innocently tell her best friend Clara over tea, “Well… if I would’ve organized that church fundraiser to feed the starving homeless, I would’ve done it better and raised so much more money.” If there was such a thing as a face palm in the 60’s, that’s exactly what Clara should have done. And believe me, folks, this kinda thing happens… We’ve got to watch ourselves. What kind of community are we if we criticize people who are simply trying to do their best? We may not agree with their actions, but at least we can acknowledge their good intentions.

FACT #5: The world would be a much better place if people were less judgmental and more loving. Now… we may not be able to change the whole world on this, but we can most certainly change our community.

More Challenges:

  • The next time you feel the need to judge or talk about someone, don’t. Just don’t. Just. Don’t.
  • The next time you hear someone talking negatively about someone else, have the guts to tell them to stop (as politely as possible).
  • (Here’s a good one), the next time you talk about someone, make it a compliment! (That’s also a good way to stop someone from talking negatively: “Did you hear the Chamber canceled the Maple Festival??!!” Your response: “I know… I’m sure that was a hard decision. Props to them for sticking to what they believe is best for the county. We will make it though, and they did a bang-up job posting so much good info on the Chamber’s new website.”)
  • And, (this one is the best!) the next time you hear of someone going through some crap, GO HELP THEM!!!!!!!


There you have it, folks – a lesson on small-town gossip: How to recognize it, what to do about it, how to check yourself, and how to put more positivity out for you and your community members – all of them – the Gomer’s, the Bea’s, the Otis’s, and even the Ernest T.’s.

A little kindness goes a long way to help someone deal with their troubles. A heck of a lot more than talking about them behind their back. (Even if you are innocently talking.) Now, let’s get to being more positive. I mean, why not? It will make us all feel better.



About the Author

Blog Designer & Editor-in-Chief

Dorothy Stephenson grew up on her family's cattle operation in Meadowdale, located in the southwest corner of Highland County. When she wasn't on horseback helping her father gather and work cattle, you'd likely find her (still on horseback) jumping creeks in her family's nearby "Big Pasture." Today, though she doesn't ride horses much anymore, she has her own cattle, land, and expansion plans for a farm. Additionally, (and with the inherited, Stephenson, entrepreneurial spirit) she owns two small businesses in Highland County - Sundance Media & Design and Sundance Studio & Productions, which houses another of Dorothy's long-time loves - Clogging. Dorothy loves exploring new places, skills, and ideas, and she intends to live life to the fullest as long as it will let her. (Oh! And she LOVES Christmas!)


  1. Tom

    Close to 35 years ago the Postmistress of a tiny Post Office in Highland County said this to me:
    “Tom, do you know what the definition of a small town is?” “A small town is where everyone knows whose check is good and whose husband isn’t.”. I now live in another very small town and realize that her definition was totally correct for most all small towns.

    • Dorothy Stephenson

      Oh my, I love this! LOL! That’s one good thing about living in a small town and knowing your neighbors – it keeps you on track. Thanks for reading, Tom!

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