Trading Guilt For Grace

Jenna Smerchek

I’m a daughter, sister, wife, aunt, dogmom, niece, cousin, and friend. I’m a lot of things to a lot of people. I’m also an introvert. Dun dun dunnn! That’s not a bad thing; honestly, I cherish that description of myself and was thrilled when I figured it out. I no longer wonder why I crave long runs alone and reading for hours on end or the magic of a road trip, blowing the speakers of my car as I sing along to my favorite songs. That’s how I recharge my battery. The more I recharge, the more I can give out to others in return.

At times, I find myself lacking the energy to speak my mind. As an introvert, I avoid confrontation as often as possible. This tends to mean that when people make plans, I don’t respond with yes or no but rather with “that would be fun!” so as to not commit myself or have to defend my “no” face to face. Who knows how worn out I’ll be when that day rolls around? I’m assuming my “oh fun” response is coming across as a yes because when the time comes and I have to say “sorry, I can’t” they seem disappointed. I hate feeling guilty for causing confusion and being a letdown. The feeling haunts me for way too long.

Since I’m quiet, I have a difficult time speaking up and saying what’s on my mind when the moment strikes. Typically, it comes to me later… when the situation is long gone and the person nowhere to be found. Bring on the awkward text from me, “hey remember when you said…well I’m thinking…” Because of this and my genuine desire to make everybody happy, I constantly feel guilty and that I’m letting people down. Every opportunity I face is another chance to choose who I will please and who I will disappoint. It wasn’t until just recently that I realized this is a problem I myself am making. I am the culprit. I have full control over this guilt and am capable of shutting it down. In doing so I need to remind myself of a few points below.

Tips For Introverts Concerning Making Plans:

  • I cannot please everybody all the time. No one can. So, stop thinking you have to.
  • Acquiescing is not expected. People ask things because you have the choice to say yes or no or maybe or my favorite answer: “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!” Since I hate letting people down, I usually use “I’ll try my hardest” so it’s not a complete surprise if I’m a no-show. This drives my friends crazy, but I don’t know if an emergency is going to arise… how on Earth can I definitely say 'yes' to what you’re proposing?
  • I don’t have to give an explanation for my response. It’s as easy as “yes” or “nope”. You can throw a sorry in there if it makes you feel better. Just don’t start groveling.

Typically for me, once the guilt starts, it just keeps piling on. I feel guilty leaving my dog all day, for asking off on Friday, for choosing to have dinner at home with my husband rather than out with the girls. Every little thing. But I need to remove the guilt and instead focus on the grace of others. Most people will understand. Sure, they may be sad, but not heartbroken. I’m thankful I have a dog to come home to and I know by his excessive tail wagging that he’s grateful for being rescued. I don’t want the guilt to weigh me down. I want it to push me to see that God’s grace is everywhere and that it’s sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

These days, I’m trying to exist only in the moment. I’ve become too used to planning my “need to get done” list that I get angered by a friend stopping by to say hi. I want to enjoy their company while they’re here and not think about what time the gym closes or how I’ll have to shorten my workout due to this “interruption.” Running is my outlet and recharging time. When I don’t get it, I tend to feel anxious and anger quickly. Those feelings always lead to guilt… Who was I short with? Who did I snap at?  I want to use my time in meaningful ways. I will be 100% engrossed in your presence and alter my schedule as the day progresses. It’s not the end of the world. I’m trying to be more flexible while not losing my mind at the same time. If we run into each other, please be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.  

I know this isn’t how I’ve always been. My ooey-gooey caramel-filled center is kind, reserved, and smiley. I just need to remind myself of that. God made me with a purpose and with intention. He didn’t make me to feel guilty and a constant letdown. I am to be helpful, loving, and to accept God’s grace and forgiveness.

I am loved endlessly by God no matter what I do or don’t do; talk about powerful! Reminding myself of that sure shrinks my problems. I can fail a thousand times a day, but I’m not a failure. I can feel like a letdown and a disappointment but that’s just because of the high standards I hold. I have expectations for myself… but why and says whom? God put desires on my heart. I’m still trying to decode what they are and how to form and shape them into meaningful contributions to my family, community, and the world. 

I am a college grad with a BA in Neuroscience. I had every intention of working at a veterinary clinic. I did that for a while but it didn’t feel right in my gut. A lot of the things I was required to do didn’t sit well with me. I ended up quitting. I was sad to walk away from what I thought I wanted. I felt guilty for 4 years of college classes with not much to show for it at the moment but I also felt relieved. I needed a job so I started part time at a gym. To keep the “I’m a letdown after receiving a college degree” feelings at bay, I told myself I’m doing ok if I can shine some Jesus light wherever I am. Then I started wavering… people would assume I was still in school and I felt guilty yet again when setting them straight and answering their questions that followed. I kept a friendly smile on my face and reiterated “I’m still figuring it all out.” During this time, I met a family who was looking for a nanny. The hours fit with my schedule so I said yes. I’ve always loved kids and had grown up babysitting my younger cousins. This was just for one little boy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (a phrase he taught me).

Well, 11 years and 2 little brothers later, I’m still “figuring it out” and nannying for this random family that became my own over the years. At times I feel I need to defend my occupation or laugh it off when I tell someone. I’m trying not to feel guilty but rather proud. It is what it is. It’s my life. God gave me this life at this time and had me meet these people.

Psalm 33:11 says “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever.” Apparently, it was God’s plan from the beginning of time. Whoa! That got deep. What a healthy reminder that God has this. He has me and my life in His hands. I have nothing to fear with God at my side, constantly cheering me on. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God’s plans are bigger and better than anything I could ever dream up. I look forward to figuring out the rest of my story as I turn the pages each morning without guilt but instead filled with His grace!


I’m a lifelong resident of southeastern Wisconsin, although in my heart I’m a total Florida girl. I love being outside enjoying God’s nature. I’m deeply involved in a local Bible Camp, volunteering my time and energy year round. Camp is my Heaven on earth; it’s also where I got engaged and married to my husband. 

I am an introvert who has a healthy obsession with running and traveling. My favorite way to explore a new area is by running through it. I love to spend my time reading, taking photos, and loving on all animals. My hope is to one day have an animal rescue as I was raised to take care of anything that needed help. I’m the girl who asks if you have a dog as soon as I walk into your home. I can sing along to every Disney song. I believe in 'God-winks' and that we meet everyone for a reason. My life is held together by Jesus... and peanut butter!