Bits 'n' Pieces: 30 years aiding soul and mind

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photoKeith Hackett

Hang up and thrive.

If the Rev. Dr. Keith Hackett has a final bit of wisdom for the community that's been seeking his advice for the last 30 years, that's basically it.

"One of the biggest changes I've seen is the negative impacts of technology," Hackett said. Whether or not you start out with an addictive-type personality, he said, the electronic circus we've surrounded ourselves with encourages everybody to grow obsessed with gadgets while shrugging off real people.

Pornography and sex addiction, texting instead of talking, stress that never recedes because the office can always find you, even on vacation — "All these things are playing havoc with people's lives," said Hackett. When you relate more to the screen than to your spouse; when it's just too easy to track down the old flame you idealize; when your children can only relate to "canned play" that's really guided by computers — then "technology really has taken over," he said.

The startlingly straightforward Hackett, 67, a native of England, told it like it is during a farewell interview of sorts. He just retired after 30-plus years as a pastoral counselor and the leader of the Columbia Pastoral Counseling Center, long housed in St. Luke's Episcopal Church near downtown Vancouver. "It has been a great arrangement," he said. He and his wife, Joan, plan to travel and have fun with their six grandchildren, four of whom live nearby.

But first the Hacketts will host a swan song dinner and retirement celebration, set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Luke's, 426 E. Fourth Plain Road. The guest of honor will be their son, Pew Research Center demographer Dr. Conrad Hackett, who will speak on "Myths and Misperceptions About Religion." Call 360-696-1615 to RSVP. Tickets are $20.

Putting religion and counseling together always felt right to Hackett, who said he loves to preach but also loves to listen. When he was a young man, he felt the call of faith despite a seriously critical mind, he said, and his father tested him with the offer of a new car if he chose a more conventional career. Hackett passed the test, driving an old beater into the ground as he became a Methodist minister.

But he also pursued and applied psychological training — until it became too awkward to lead his flock while keeping all its secrets. He backed away from pastoring as a career then, and focused on psychology with a spiritual bent. You can still get a taste of his approach at the website http://www.playfulrelationships.com.

If technology worries Hackett, here's a societal change that doesn't: gay marriage. Hackett thinks many straight couples don't realize what commitment really means, and said truly motivated gay weddings could "bring up the average" of marriages that last. He's had more than his fair share of devout, conservative Christians who come to him to confide their hidden gayness, he said.

Listening to people's personal problems year after year can be taxing, he added. He always made a practice of not bringing his work home with him.

"You've got to develop your own interests and hobbies totally outside your practice," he said. "Your priority has to be your own family."

— Scott Hewitt


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.