Just as it is immoral to think, speak, and act in certain ways, it is also immoral to feel certain feelings.

This statement is such a departure from what we generally believe today—that human feelings or human needs can never be wrong—that it can be shocking to contemporary Americans. "What? What do you mean? I have a right to my feelings!"

But do you? Some of these negative feelings, such as sadness, arrogance, and anger, are actually destructive forces that serve to undermine our relationships. They are common human feelings, yes, but we can exist and function without them. In fact, our marriages and our relationships are better off without them.

When we say that it's wrong to lose your temper, we're not merely suggesting that being even-tempered might be nicer for your spouse or make you more lovable. We're talking about right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Imagine the following scene:

One day a man attends a business meeting. He's giving his report, when his boss asks him if he's got his facts straight. The man is furious. "What do you mean I've got my facts wrong? How dare you insult me!" Red-faced and shaking, the man storms out of the meeting, slamming the door behind him.

On his way home, he thinks, "If that guy is too stupid to know good work when he hears it, he's not fit for the job. Not only is he too stupid, he's too young. I'm older than he is. For that reason alone, he should have had more respect for me."

He walks along a little further, and then he thinks, "It wouldn't have been so bad in private, but why did he have to disagree with me in front of all those people? Now my reputation is ruined." The more he thinks about it, the angrier he gets.

By the time the man gets home and walks in his front door, he is so upset that he can't answer when his wife asks, "Why are you home so early?" The next day he's still angry, and he decides not to go to work. "I can't bear to look that man in the face."

Now picture the same scenario but with a different man: The second man goes to the meeting, gets insulted, takes offense, makes a big scene, and storms out. On the way home, he thinks, "How could that guy do that? He practically called me a liar in front of everybody."

He walks a little further, then thinks, "If he was going to call me a liar, it should have been about the things I do lie about. But today I wasn't lying; I was telling the truth."

A little further yet: "Sometimes I don't check my facts. I guess it's not so unthinkable that he would be suspicious. How was he supposed to know? Did I have to get so angry?" The more he thinks about it, the more embarrassed he feels.

By the time he gets home, he's too ashamed to explain to his wife why he came home early. The next day, he's embarrassed. "How could I behave that way? A grown man, losing his temper over such a petty thing?"

The first man's anger stems from arrogance; he takes himself too seriously. The second man's ability to dissipate his anger comes from humility; he realizes that his self-interest is insignificant. In fact, anger is a form of arrogance, and both are caused by a lack of humility.

In general, we should strive to be moderate in all things. We should always choose the middle road—not too far to the left, not too far to the right. This center path is known to be the path of truth. But there are two important exceptions to that rule: being humble and avoiding anger. In fact, being humble and avoiding anger are really the same thing.

When it comes to being humble and avoiding anger, we need never be moderate. Then it is appropriate and healthy to go to the extreme. We can be moderate in love, in appetite, in praise, and in the way we spend money, but never in refusing to get angry.

We become angry when we have too high an opinion of ourselves, when we take ourselves too seriously. That's arrogance. But just as none of us is so significant that we have a right to be arrogant, none of us is so important that our anger is justified. Whenever someone hurts us, bothers us, or offends us, and we lose our tempers, we justify our behavior by saying, "Well, he made me angry." We speak about our "right" to be angry, which justifies whatever we say or do, even if we lose control completely. We tell ourselves, "I know I shouldn't act that way, but I was very angry."

Intelligent human beings do not permit in their hearts, in their minds, or in their lives things of which they do not approve. When we lose our tempers and behave badly, we are in perfect control—we are letting it happen.

People often use the same excuse for things they do when they are intoxicated. A man might say to his wife, "I forgot to do what you needed me to do, but I couldn't help it, because I was too drunk." She, on the other hand, could respond, "But I noticed as you were walking down the stairs, you reached for the banister. How come you weren't too drunk for that?"

No matter how drunk we are, certain things remain important enough that we don't forget them. The things we might forget while drunk are only those things that don't really matter.

The same is true of being angry. When we do something wrong, we are letting it happen; we are responsible, not the anger. No matter how justified we might feel, anger is never a justification for bad behavior. But unless we recognize anger as unnecessary and detrimental to the well-being of our relationships, we will never learn to give it up, to let go of it entirely. It will go on ruining our lives, and ruining our ability to have and maintain intimate relationships.

Some people may smoke too much and agree that smoking too much is making them sick, but they will not quit. Others may drink too much and agree that getting drunk is a real problem, but they won't do anything about it. They are convinced that driving drunk is bad, that coming home drunk is bad, that getting drunk four times a week is bad, but they are not convinced that it's bad to take "just one drink." You might say that chain smoking is terrible and you shouldn't do it. But if that's your attitude, you'll never change. Nobody gets up in the morning and says, "I think I'll chain smoke today." You get up in the morning and you smoke one cigarette.

Unless you are convinced that "even one" cigarette is wrong, you're not going to stop smoking. Unless you are convinced that taking "even one" drink is wrong, you are not going to stop drinking. And unless you are convinced that anger is not essential but illegitimate, in any amount, you won't stop getting angry. You'll just find better excuses.

Anger is not an emotion. Anger is a mood in which you're not disposed to any emotion. You don't care about what you say and how you behave; you can't remember whom you love and whom you fear. When you're angry, you can't feel emotion.

The term emotion should be limited to describing feelings that occur between people. Other feelings should be called sensations, moods, dispositions, but not emotions.

A disposition means the general mood of a person that can either encourage or discourage the activities of the mind and heart. Anger is a disposition that prevents emotion; it is not itself a genuine emotion.

Love, for example, is a legitimate, valid emotion. It's a feeling we have toward other people. Hate is also a genuine emotion. It's not good to hate, but it's a genuine emotion because it has to do with someone else. But sadness, arrogance, and anger are not emotions. Someone who is emotionally crippled, and unable to express love, is still able to express anger. That's because anger is not a genuine emotion, but a mood or a sensation. Unlike a real emotion such as love, anger does not need to be preserved, protected, or cultivated. It's simply not necessary; as a human quality, it's completely undesirable.

Anger can discourage thought as well. When you are very angry, you can't even think; it's too all-consuming. So anger stifles both emotion and intellect. Since it's the combination of human intelligence and emotions that makes us truly human and able to serve G‑d, anger, other than genuine moral indignation, plays no role in the service of G‑d.

The ancient sages wrote, "He who gets angry is as if he worshiped idols." During those moments our tempers are out of control, there is no room in our hearts or minds for G‑d; for those moments, we have rejected Him, and that's idolatry.

In fact, by allowing ourselves to become angry, we fail to acknowledge that everything comes from G‑d. We don't stop to recognize G‑d's part in the events that made us angry. In the Bible, when Joseph's brothers arrived in Egypt, knowing that they had sold him into slavery, they were afraid that he would be angry with them. He was not. He said to them, "I'm not angry, because I have no reason to be. You intended evil; you ganged up on me, threw me into a pit, and sold me away. But G‑d intended it for the good. My suffering, my slavery in Egypt, my sitting in prison, my being abused and finally elevated—all of this is G‑d's plan, and that plan is for the good" (Gen. 45:5-8).

The messenger or vehicle of G‑d's will may have ulterior motives, but that's their problem. What is happening to you is coming to you from G‑d. Ask yourself why. Ask yourself what you need to learn from this, what G‑d is trying to tell you. Don't shoot the messenger. Remember that the next time your heart gets set off, and there you are, feeling angry. After the initial rush of feelings, dismiss the anger. Allow your mind to come into control and take over. Rather than fuel the anger, your mind will be able to cool the anger.

Remember Joseph. Without him, without his foresight in the face of drought and his system for storing grain, Egyptians, Canaanites, and Israelites alike would have starved. Instead, his family arrived in Egypt, all were saved, and saved with dignity.

"You thought for the bad," he told his brothers. "But that's between you and G‑d. If you want me to preach to you, I'll preach to you. If you want me to teach you how to be better, I'll teach you how to be better. But angry? I have no reason to be angry."

How is that possible? When something is morally wrong, don't we have an obligation, a moral responsibility to react? Aren't we supposed to object, complain, insist that it stop? It's true that moral indignation is legitimate, but it's appropriate and justified only in the truly moral person, the saintly person who is good all of the time. Only those who live their lives totally devoted to morality and goodness are justified in having a strong reaction to what is immoral. "Anger" on the part of such a person is directed to the immorality of an act or an event. It's not a personal response. As soon as the wrong is righted, the saintly person's feeling of outrage is gone. Unless we are completely righteous to begin with, we have no business being morally indignant.

My teacher used to say, "You have to be consistent. Don't suddenly turn self-righteous on select occasions. If you're not on that level of righteousness, don't pretend to be when it suits you." And then he told me this story:

"There was once a farmer who had one goat in his herd that gave no milk. For years he tried to cure her, but nothing helped. One year a plague broke out among the goats, and the goat that gave no milk came down with the disease. The farmer cried, 'When it came to giving milk, you weren't a goat. Now that it comes to goat diseases, all of a sudden, you're a goat!'"

Moral indignation is appropriate for people who are deeply moral. But if you are careless with your own morality, anger is simply not justified. So, in your marriage, if your husband hurts your feelings, your reaction should not be one of indignation. Your first thought should not be, "How do I get back at him? How do I punish him for this?"

When we are feeling angry, we are wholly absorbed by it. No one and nothing else exists. When we are angry, our spouse doesn't exist, our children don't exist, and G‑d doesn't exist. That's not conducive to intimacy; it destroys the intimacy.

There is never a reason or justification for being so wrapped up in your own sense of self-importance that you exclude your family, your neighbors, your people, or your Creator from your mind, heart, and life.