There Really Is No Place Like Home At Christmas

By Bret Bernhardt

As much as we love the thrill of working on Capitol Hill and being in Washington, D.C., there’s nothing better than getting back home and being with family and friends.

Bret Bernhardt, former chief of staff for senators Don Nickles and Jim DeMint.

Most of us who work on Capitol Hill generally have a good relationship with our family and friends back home. It’s important to note that this certainly doesn’t include everyone.

Even for those that don’t, this longing for the safe and familiar is universal and can be found whatever our station in life through our church, community, close friends, and extended family.

Getting back home in 2020, of course, is different than in years past, given the limitations on travel. Notwithstanding, many who work on Capitol Hill will make the trip back home. This draw, especially during Christmas, is strong and will motivate us to overcome whatever obstacles there are to be with our loved ones.

In fact, you may find yourself daydreaming about your trip home and reconnecting with familiar faces. Fortunately, we have a tendency to dwell on the good memories and not the bad ones.

This fuels our motivation to escape the frenetic life of Capitol Hill and get back to something more like normal. And how we need that this year!

Whether you are single, married, or have kids of your own, it’s important to remember a few things as you return home.

Everyone has different dynamics and relationships with their family and friends, but it is a given that your relationship is different now than when you lived back home. As such, be self-aware and prepared for entering back into your old environment.

“Whether you are single, married, or have kids of your own, it’s important to remember a few things as you return home.”

It’s easy to slip back into old habits, some of which you escaped coming to Washington,  while others you are still trying to shake.

In either case, be prepared and “pre-prayed,” as you make your transition back, even if for a brief time, and you’ll be glad you did.

Remember the age-old axiom that you can only control your actions and not that of others. In the eyes of those back home, you may still be seen as something other than who you are now and this can be frustrating, discouraging, and even  angering. It may seem that those boxes you feel you were put into and were safely stored away have now returned.

Here are some additional tips for navigating those visits back home:

  • Keep your time home manageable. Our tendency might be to overestimate the amount of time we should spend back home. There’s an old saying that fish and family begin to smell after three days.

Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t stay longer than three days but the point is making sure you don’t overstay your welcome on either end. Think realistically about your time, and especially if you are married, the impact on your spouse and kids.

Some families get along marvelously and there’s no limit to the amount of time they can spend together. However, I’ve found that there are limits with most families. Therefore, be discerning on this.

“You are a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new.”

  • Remember, you are not same person you were growing up. Shame is one of the enemy’s favorite weapons. If he can convince you that you will never overcome your past mistakes and faults, he will have you doubting that you are truly loved.

Paul said in II Corinthians 5:17,  “you are a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new.”  What a beautiful way of saying that our Lord has changed us wholly and completely.

The only remaining issue is for us to grasp and believe that with all of our heart. This would be a good time to have a conversation with the Lord to hear Him say how much he loves you.

  • Take ownership of your relati o nships.  In short, be the adult in the room. While you may feel your family and friends still treat you as they used to, remember they are dealing with issues too.

As you rise above your own feelings of insecurity and instead see and understand their needs, you will catapult over those old ways you used to relate.

“In time, as you overlook the slights and offenses, and genuinely forgive them, you’ll see those relationships bloom into something you never imagined.”

This won’t happen overnight, but in time as you overlook the slights and offenses, and genuinely forgive them, you’ll see those relationships bloom into something you never imagined.

  • Finally, dwell on those things that elevate your thinking.  Spend time in the scriptures, read a good book, watch an inspirational movie, or dive into a meaningful conversation.

Philippians 4:8 says it best:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

As you do this, the little things that used to set you off won’t bother you as much. And you’ll surprise yourself with the capacity to love those you are most known to even better than when you left.

Bret Bernhardt served on the Hill as chief of staff to senators Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is now a member of the board of directors of Faith & Law and the Conservative Partnership Institute.


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