Lies are coded truths.

Politicians, preachers, and pupils sometimes make statements we deem lies. From the perspective of psychology and rhetoric, however, “lies” do not necessarily exist.

Everything uttered speaks to manifestations of hopes and fears.

For example, sometimes fellow professors complain when students “lie” about deceased relatives or computer problems, for example. But, as a colleague framed it, sometimes we have to allow students room/the freedom to frame their troubles in ways they find comfortable. For example, a student might not want to explain that they had an episode of depression that confined them to bed for a day. Asking for an extension because of “computer problems” or “work” does not “out” students or require them to have what could be unwanted, uncomfortable conversations.

Such lies are code for other messages. Sometime we might need to or want to decode these to figure out what is really going on, but almost always, trusting students is best. And as I always put it, at the end of the semester, students have either done or not done the required assessments.

Politicians (and lawyers) are well known for the “lies” they voice. Yet, even these are coded. For example, Republican/Tea Party politicians express outrage at abortion because it ends human life. However, this is a lie. Decoded and historicized, we see that people who voice opposition to abortion are actually expressing fears manifested by a declining number of White babies and a growing number of non-White babies in the United States. Additionally, as voiced by another colleague, Republican/Tea Party politicians only voice opposition to abortion, rather than fully outlaw it, as their main hope of keeping people within the Republican/Tea Party and growing its numbers.

(And of course too we know that elected and appointed Republicans do not oppose abortion because of their concern for human life given–literallyall of their other actions.)

What about preachers? A growing and sizable number of Christian preachers anonymously report that they are actually atheists but continue preaching and saying they believe. This speaks to hopes and fears, too, related to economic and social pressure, for instance.

Similarly, proclaimed gaps between “fiction” and “nonfiction,” are fictional. More on this topic another time. Some additional thoughts are located here, “Facts Exist on a Spectrum.”

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda