When someone is accused of making a mountain out of a molehill, the implication is that he or she is exaggerating a situation, making it seem much larger and more important than it really is. It can also be a suggestion that the person is too involved and minute to understand that situation, as to an ant, a molehill is a mountain. This proverb can also be reversed, with people being accused of making a molehill out of a mountain when they understate a situation or problem.
Numerous pithy folk sayings all boil down to the same basic idea, that someone is making altogether too much fuss for a given situation. People can be accused of making tempests in teapots, for example, or of making much ado about nothing. The widespread use and incredible diversity of such sayings is perhaps a testimonial to the human tendency to exaggerate situations, especially situations in which one is personally involved, as this makes the situation seem more important and more interesting.
When you make a mountain out of a molehill, you do expose yourself to some danger, primarily in the form of mockery. When people believe that a situation is not very important and someone stretches the truth to make it seem bigger, the response is generally not very favorable. If someone becomes known for making mountains out of molehills, he or she may also be ignored in a really serious situation which does merit attention.
The desire to exaggerate a situation is certainly understandable, especially when it involves a cause which someone holds dear or feels especially passionate about. For example, someone who is rabidly anti-development might be as angry about a three house development as about a 70 house development, with the same emotions driving both responses. If this person chooses to make a mountain out of a molehill when protesting the three house development, however, people may be less inclined to listen when he or she lodges a protest against the 70 house development.
Making something out of nothing is a popular pastime for some people, and the rejoinder to “not make a mountain out of a molehill” is usually designed to sound a note of warning. If you feel yourself getting worked up about a situation or event, take some time to cool down and consider the situation before making too much of things.