Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Treasured Friends By Ann Hibbard

Women all over the world suffer myriads of stereotypes and often these mostly unfounded mental conceptions tend to be more pronounced in the hinterlands where education is deficient. One such seemingly entrenched stereotypical conception is that women are inherently quarrelsome, so much so that, we tend to view feuds between women as completely ordinary and hence downplay the many possible adverse consequences of such bitter disputes because we somewhat unconsciously deem them normative.

However true or otherwise the above may be, I am of the opinion that women generally make better friends than men based on my personal unscientific observation and Ann Hibbard in her book Treasured Friends corroborated my hunch, though her work is by no means a comparative study/analysis of the sustainability of friendship among the two sexes.

In Treasured Friends, the author marshals a wealth of information from her personal stories and the testimonies of numerous other women she has encountered from her many speaking engagements to make a solid case for building intimate friendships.

She begins the book by sampling the views of some of the women on what they considered true friendship noting among other things that, “some use the term friend loosely to mean anything from acquaintances to lifelong soul mates.” As varied as the views were, one of the most recurrent themes in their responses was that true friendship teaches us to love. Ann beautifully encapsulates it thus, “Love is learned in the crucible of human relationships: a place where we bind each other’s wounds, clothe each other with humor, nourish each other with encouragement and quench each other’s thirst for acceptance and companionship.”

Commencing every chapter with a catchy and concise quote, Ann explores key ingredients like trust, love, acceptance, kindness, respect, etc that make for a healthy and intimate friendship yet in a manner that is not all niceties. Like in every human relationship, this book attempts to capture every aspect of true friendship, warts-and-all, thus giving it a realistic appeal. For instance, she advises that “anyone can say what we want to hear. A true friend tells us what we need to hear. Yet every word is prompted by love.” She also warns against parasitic friendships and suggests ways to cut off such ones observing that it is “better to go deep with a few than to have superficial relationships with many” especially “when continuing in a friendship necessitates participation in wrong behavior.”

As beautifully and as well written as this book may be, I strongly suspect that not many men will find it appealing because like me, they may think it too feminine. Even though men will lose nothing for reading it but rather stand to glean some invaluable lessons from an exclusively feminine perspective to better their own relationships, the book, right from the cover page through to the blurb at the back of the book and the numerous examples and stories in between all told in very flowery language seem to be skewed toward only female readers and probably purposely so. This in my opinion does not take anything away from the book but could probably count for one of its strengths in addition to it being strongly founded on biblical principles and its easy readability.

In the end, I think Ann Hibbard does a great job in her treatment of this topic and is timely piece for our Technological Age where relationships are built on social media behind the safety of our computer screens, making us probably more isolated than ever. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all ladies especially those who are keen on building intimate friendships. I am willing to lend my copy to any of my lady friends who are interested to give it a read. Just holler at me!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I grew up in a good Christian home where every year, two very important events marked the highlights of all activities on the calendar namely, Christmas and Easter. Christmas is usually the most anticipated time of the year and it is always marked with cheerful exchange of gifts amidst lots of merriment and joyous celebrations. This is probably due to the universal acceptance that the season enjoys as it typically tends to be a period of brisk economic activities when traders sought to maximize profits.

For some people, Christmas is simply a cozy holiday season when one sits back to take stock of the year’s activities and for others it marks the culmination of the successes chocked during the entire year and thus a good time to be grateful and to be spent  with the family. The story of Easter, however, is not quite the same.
Easter has traditionally been a somber period. It doesn’t typically enjoy the same exuberance with which Christmas is embraced yet the reason for this seemingly lackadaisical reception may not be so obvious.

Could it be that Christians have successfully maintained the season’s core purpose of serving as a memorial for the agony of their risen Savior and hence its somber nature? Is it because the period is so inherently associated with suffering and death, which are by no stretch of the imagination a merry affair? Or it may probably be due to its muddled pagan origins which detractors trumpet without fail during the season thus dampening the otherwise celebrant moods of many while making some lose faith in the whole celebrations altogether.

I remember I used to see people (usually elderly women) adorned in funeral cloth with very mournful countenance – in fact, some do even wail disconsolately – in certain mainline churches especially on the Good Friday. It makes one wonder, is it some sort of a cruel irony that this day is tagged “good” when the prevailing mood on the day is palpable sadness? Or is it that the true essence of the day is lost or probably misplaced?

I can surmise then that the melancholic milieu of Easter festivities is culpable for its seemingly poor reception because it paints a picture too gloomy for many to readily embrace. Ours is a generation in pursuit of happiness and lofty dreams thus we are very intolerant of any negativity that we perceive could mar our pollyannaish aspirations. So at worst we reject outrightly anything that threatens our happiness and at best resort to rebranding or undergoing a total makeover that appropriately suits our jolly taste.

Is it any wonder then that in Ghana today, Easter is synonymous with joyous festivities in Kwahu? It used to be that in the period nearing Easter celebrations, most ads on TV and radio were about upcoming church conventions and various outreach missions but that is fast changing and giving way to more modern trends. Thus, it is not uncommon to hear ads about paragliding that promises a thrill of a lifetime or those other popular ones in the line of “Easter Jam At Kwahu Featuring Sarkodie and Kojo Antwi…” among others.

Is this new trend good? Well, that will depend on who you ask. For the savvy business man or event organizer, this is just another golden opportunity to rake in large profits. For the insatiable hedonist, it’s just one more reason to party! For the Minister of Tourism, it’s a great time to showcase to the rest of the world the best the country has to offer in order to attract more tourists and investors. For the priest, it is just one more reason to bemoan the adulteration of an otherwise sacred Christian ritual through unholy worldly influences whereas for the zealous young Christian, it’s a good opportunity to intensify evangelistic efforts to bring more lost souls into their fold. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

In the end though, Easter like any other period, is a good time for Christians to ponder the costly sacrifice of their beloved Saviour that purchased their redemption. Whether you are going to mark this period with intense fasting and prayers or in a pensive Sabbatarian mood or as a jolly good time with family and close friends, do it all to the glory of God with the Christ crucified as your sole focus!

Happy Easter to all…