On Tempering Myself

I’ve tempered my words. Carefully choosing and precisely picking words that aren’t too challenging or courageous for a woman. I’ve bitten my tongue, holding back the very words I knew needed to be spoken in order to not be called outspoken. I smiled and nodded even when I knew the person who was speaking was afforded that privilege because of gender and race and not because of wisdom or compassion.

I’ve tempered my body. Covering curves that nurtured and fed babies through their most vulnerable first days of life as I kept watch of the night for them and all other beloved children of God praying that they too would be nurtured and fed. I’ve disguised my hips who hold the mystery of carrying life, and yes, carrying death because this knowing is an undoing that calls forth resurrection. Again and again, I’ve done what I should to hide in an attempt not to be called a temptress.

I’ve tempered my voice. Creating palatable, tentative messages that aren’t too bold or forward. I’ve paid homage to the loud, booming voices of authority telling me to wait my turn or that I’ve spoken enough. I’ve lost my voice on several occasions to threats of violence and retaliation for speaking out. And yet the still, small voice keeps whispering and calling to me: “Speak up! Speak out!”

I’m not tempering my words, my body, my voice anymore.

And I see you tempering yourself. Trying to fit into norms and expectations that make you someone else, someone you don’t recognize. And maybe by using my words, my body, and my voice you will find a way through to be truly you.