Dr. Reverend Barbara Edema has been a frequent contributor to Awakenings publications, and we’re pleased to share more of her encouraging, affirming message. In this piece, Barbara speaks to the ways in which survivors can often find it difficult to share their voices when others are so eager to intervene or control those voices. Her comfotable, friendly style encourages her readers to advocate for themselves and their truths.


My voice

by Rev. Dr. Barbara Edema


If you put your hand over my mouth. I am silenced.

My words cannot get out and about.

I breathe them in, or swallow them down, and they roam inside my body and give me a stomach ache.

For years I was told to keep secrets. Secrets made me sick. Secrets might make you sick, too.

If I open my mouth to share an opinion and I see your eyebrow raise ever so slightly, I am silenced. 

My mouth closes like the door of a jail cell.

For years I have been told when to speak by a society of those who thought they knew how my words should be strung together. In sermons or blog posts or conversation.

I let others tell me my words. Don’t challenge. Don’t disagree. Don’t speak your own intelligence. 

Don’t speak your heart. Don’t insult someone else’s “truth.”

Aaron Burr tells Alexander Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.”

Has anyone told you this (in so many words)?

Play dumb. Giggle more.

If you put your hand over my mouth. I am silenced.

If your eyebrow raises. I am silenced.

If you tell me to be quiet. I am silenced. Or, I used to be.

Alexander Hamilton says to Aaron Burr, “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?”

If you think you need to correct my belief system or my intellect or my gut reaction you are wrong. You are trying to silence the wrong woman. Stop trying to silence strong women. Our voices ooze out of our skin. Our lives are placards worn every day as we live and move and have our being.

I have spent years acquiescing to the opinions of controlling women, unintelligent men, and those who traverse in the slime of condescension.

Late in the game, I’ve decided not to play anymore.

So, here’s a tip for you dear ones who may have felt, or do feel, silenced. When you hear these words, run:

“You should…!”

“You ought…!”

“You must…!”

“I highly recommend you….”

These are words of condescension. The people saying these things are often insecure, so they must tell others what to do, just to feel superior (which is exhausting). If you didn’t ask for their advice, there’s no need to take it.

My voice matters. Your voice matters. Words count.

But please don’t try t change my words. If I don’t dialogue with you, it’s because I know it will be a waste of my time. And I’ve lost a lot of time.

If you put your hand over my mouth,

I’ll bite you.

And then I will speak my truth.



Source: Hamilton The Musical. Chicago Tour 2019.


The Reverend Dr. Barbara Edema has been a pastor for over twenty five years. Her most recent pastorate was interim work at an open and affirming church in Grand Ledge, Michigan. She is a survivor of sexual abuse. She is the author of poems and prose about abuse and healing. She is also the author of The Pastor Maggie Series available at Amazon.com and Pen-L.com. She is a wife, mother, and happy owner of four rescue cats.