“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

The day started out as any other: coffee, quiet time, crafting the day’s “To Do” list.

Pick up milk.

Reply to that e-mail.

Figure out what the heck is wrong with me.

I chuckled as I added the last item, but unfortunately it was true. A harried week and over-scheduled calendar left me exhausted on multiple fronts. Several conflicts with friends and family members mixed with the exhaustion to create a dark concoction of frustration and anger. I found myself irritated at any and all people.

When even my two-year-old was getting on my nerves, a harsh reality sunk in: my inner ugly was running the show, and we needed to break up.

Perhaps you can relate. Daily, we’re exposed to ugliness. It takes the form of violent crimes, news stories about bullying in school, and a seemingly endless supply of hateful rhetoric online. But what about when the ugliness isn’t inside a television or computer screen, but inside our own hearts?

Confronting our own hardened, selfish hearts is about as much fun as a root canal. But when our souls begin disintegrating faster than a stick of cotton candy in a rain storm, and we’re pointing exasperated fingers at everyone but ourselves, that’s our clue: we are the ones with the problem.

If we’re willing, the disease in our own hearts can propel us closer to the heart of our Heavenly Father—a Father who loves and gave His life for all people, even the ones rubbing us the wrong way.

So how can we break up with our inner ugly? A few simple yet powerful steps can set us in the right direction:

Click Restart. When our phone or computer crashes, we know it’s in need of a “restart.” The same is true of our hearts, and our Heavenly Father can give us the fresh start we need. As King David did, so we can pray: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NIV). We can take our ugly to the Father and allow Him to refresh and renew our hearts.

Reach Out. When our inner ugly rears its, well, ugly head, we’re often in need of a perspective change. Reaching out to a safe, trusted friend or mentor who will speak truth into your life can make all the difference in setting you back on the path of life. In this, we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24 NIV).

Give Thanks. Few things send ugliness running for the hills faster than a heart of gratitude. Ugly and thankful simply don’t coexist. Choose gratitude, even if it’s white-knuckled and by the skin of your teeth.

Sweet reader, I pray that we would find courage to break up with the inner ugly. Refuse to give the enemy a foothold in your heart’s delicate soil.

And may we return to our “To Do” lists with nothing but a heart full of joy and love.