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My Take: Casey Anthony and the challenge of forgiveness
July 16th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

My Take: Casey Anthony and the challenge of forgiveness

Editor's Note: Patrick Wanis, Ph.D. is a human behavior and relationship expert and therapist and author of “Finding God – Spiritual Strategies to Help YOU Find Happiness, Fulfillment and Inner Peace."

By Patrick Wanis, Special to CNN

The justice system is designed to prevent, punish and rehabilitate. But with Casey Anthony being acquitted of murdering her 2-year old daughter Caylee, many people are still full of rage and anger toward her, seeking revenge and claiming they want justice for what they continue to believe is her guilt.

But does the anger, revenge and bitterness help bring back Caylee? What positive purpose might it serve? Does Casey Anthony’s case cry out for forgiveness, even if the court found her not guilty of murder?

When we feel injured we respond or react automatically with anger. When someone hurts us, we automatically want to hurt that person back.

Because of the constant media coverage the Anthony trial garnered, many people - particularly mothers and women - felt a personal connection to the case. Their original motivation for justice for Caylee has turned into a desire for revenge.

Casey Anthony's secret release

Anger is not always a negative emotion. When someone is being attacked, you need anger to push you to action to protect the victim. It was anger and frustration that led to revolution in Egypt and that is fueling other uprisings in the Arab world.

In fact, some people have used their anger to lead a petition for “Caylee’s Law,” which would make it a felony to wait more than 48 hours to report a missing child and a felony not to report the death of a child within two hours (though different versions have been proposed in different states).

Casey did not report her missing daughter for 30 days. Such laws may represent a positive use of anger.

But staying stuck in anger, bitterness, vindictiveness or a desire for revenge does not bring about positive results. As a human behavior expert and therapist, the most common denominator of the pain, mental and emotional affliction that I see people suffer is the lack of forgiveness - the anger and pursuit of revenge against mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or self for something that someone did or didn’t do.

There are surely limits to forgiveness, some say. Is Casey Anthony beyond the limit?

The secret life of Casey Anthony

It was the spring of 1944 when 10-year-old Eva Kor, her twin sister Miriam and her mother arrived in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Immediately, guards ripped both girls from their mother and they were never again to see her, their father or their older sisters.

Shortly thereafter, in a sick bay, a doctor told Eva “You have just two weeks to live.” The doctor was Josef Mengele. He had just injected her with a lethal cocktail of bacteria as part of a barbaric experiment with twins.

Eva had a strong immune system and survived but so, too, did the pain of her suffering. Her sister Miriam suffered an inexplicable disease from the injection of poison. Eva later tried to save her sister’s life by donating one of her own kidneys, but Miriam died in 1993.

In January 1995, at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Kor brought along a doctor who worked alongside Josef Mengele. Eva read a confession of guilt from the doctor who accompanied her and then shocked the world press by saying “In my own name, I forgive all Nazis.”

Casey Anthony appeals lying convictions

Eva says forgiveness led to her to inner peace and healing and she has made speeches about forgiveness across the United States in front of school groups and organizations. She teaches that forgiveness freed her from victim status.

“I felt as though an incredibly heavy weight of suffering had been lifted,” she has said. “I never thought I could be so strong… What the victims do does not change what happened. And the best thing about the remedy of forgiveness is that there are no side effects. And everybody can afford it.”

Eva is featured in the Forgiveness Project, an effort that “encourages and empowers people to explore the nature of forgiveness and alternatives to revenge.”

Most world religions promote forgiveness, an eventual end to demanding punishment or restitution. Love, forgiveness and compassion are primary teachings of Jesus.

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Jesus said on the cross, asking God to forgive the people that were about to kill Him.

Although there are many reasons we hold onto a lack of forgiveness, the pain, anger, revenge and rage only hurt us. But forgiveness sets us free.

Even if Casey Anthony had been found guilty and were to be put to death, would that help Caylee or other living children? Would it truly free us in our hearts? Would our energy not be put to better use if we were to choose to help other children who are at this moment starving, homeless, at risk or in danger?

What if the thousands of angry people devoted that energy to helping mothers and children who have been abused or battered?

Look in your heart and ask yourself what effect the poison of anger and revenge have on you and your life. We have all wronged and we are all imperfect. Of course, murder is not the same as the wrongs that most of us commit.

But if Jesus could ask God to forgive the people that were about to murder him and if a Holocaust survivor could forgive the people that poisoned her and tried to exterminate her family, then what holds you and I back from forgiving anyone? The next time you commit a wrongdoing, won’t you be saying “Please forgive me?”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Patrick Wanis.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Crime • Opinion

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soundoff (2,071 Responses)
  1. Lon Spector

    I say love your enemies, and do good to those that despitefully use you.
    Because if you only love your friends, where is your reward? Do not the republicians do as much?

    May 30, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  2. Krishna Wimbish

    Casey Anthony is objecting to a proposal that she sell her life story as part of her bankruptcy. Her attorneys filed a motion this week in federal bankruptcy court in Tampa asking a judge to reject the proposal.;

    Catch you later
    <http://www.healthmedicinelab.com

    April 27, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  3. Jack Roman

    I think the proscution did a fine job bringing adequate evidence to the courtroom. Any decent adults with any morals would have chosen to convict Casey Anthony of her crime of murder. But no, the jurors are too worried about whether they can land interviews and book deals for themselves. The whole circle of evil seems to have won big here. The only one who lost was Kaylee, and of course people like us who cared. Check out more about this at caseyanthonyamurderer.blogspot.com

    August 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • Herbert Craig

      We can save a lot of tax money by doing away with the courts and justice system. Just try people through the media and internet.

      August 6, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  4. AvdBerg

    By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that all the foundations of the earth out of course are gay Christians riding on turtles. For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to read the latest article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Rise of the Gay Christians’ And Their Turtles listed on our website http://gaychristian101.com

    Please ignore any messages that inform you that we are on a troll and that ask you to activate the abuse button or even refer you to a non-gaychristian website. It is an attempt to discredit our work on our knees.

    July 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  5. AvdBerg

    By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that all the foundations of the earth out of course (Psalms 82:5). For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to read the latest article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Please ignore any messages that inform you that we are on a troll and that ask you to activate the abuse button or even refer you to a gaychristian website. It is an attempt to discredit the work of our Ministry, which is for the edifying of the Body of Christ – His Church (Eph. 4:12).

    July 29, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • .....

      Thanks for proving what a troll you are by posting the same thing over and over again. This AvdBerg is a troll on this site trying to sell their cult and book, when ever you see their post click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll.

      July 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  6. Andrea

    The only limit to forgiveness belongs to the one forgiving.

    July 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that all the foundations of the earth out of course . For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com

      July 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  7. marybefera

    Casey Anthony will get hers eventually. Cloraform duct tape garbage bags and a swamp, wait and see.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  8. AvdBerg

    A number of people that have written to respond to this article have spoken of the interpretation of the Bible, which is the number one problem in this present world as the Bible itself teaches us that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Only few people (Matthew 7:14) are able to understand the Bible and as long as mankind remains separated from God, the Word of God will remain a mystery.

    Mankind in his natural state is unable to understand the Bible and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

    There is a natural body and a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). The only thing that separates the Natural body from the Spiritual body is the Baptism of Repentance (Mark 1:4). To repent means: to change spirits and to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, whose spirit mankind is of (Luke 9:55), unto God (Acts 26:18). This is not an interpretation. Many people search the Bible for in them they think they have eternal life, but when we bring them the Scriptures they don’t believe us (John 5:38,39). Confused? There is no need to be confused any longer. For a better understanding of the mystery of God we invite you to read all the pages and articles of our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    So, before mankind will be able to understand the Word of God, mankind requires to be converted and transformed by God (not by any religion) and only then mankind is able to understand the Bible, as it is God (John 1:1).

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

    July 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • ....

      Still trolling trying to sell your cult and book it's complete garbage. Click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      I find it interesting that they promote a gay christian website.

      July 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Keith burgess-thats what you call me anyway..

    What is up with you people? I come down here to have a bit of rest and vacation, and all I hear about if JC's second comming? I know that he prefers you over us, but really? Do you honestly think that some minute being will be able to hear the words and secondly, understand them? (and father wonders why we are disgruntled?) Why don't you all do what you have been told and then it will not matter when. OOps- free will. anyway, we are here among you and charged with your guidance and to help you learn what having him care for you meatbags means. Don't call us, we are already standing next to you.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  10. E Hubbard

    I never forgave OJ, Hitler, and Charles Manson, and I seem to be doing alright, why should I forgive any murderer? I respect our justice system but it does not always work 100% of the time, one simple example is those that are wrongfully found guilty and another is those that are acquitted due to technicalities. I have the right to believe what I want to believe, that is why a I am me and not you.

    July 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  11. SoundOfForest

    Girls should get matured normally, get married properly and raise children normally.

    July 20, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  12. JACKIE

    JACKIE HI 6000YEARS. IF YOU MEAN ME I LIKE CAPS. THANK YOU

    July 20, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  13. JACKIE

    6000YEARS IF YOU MEAN ME (JACKIE) I LIKE CAPS THANK YOU

    July 20, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  14. Valerie Chapman

    Let God be the Judge. No one but Casey and God knows the truth and thats the way it will probably always be. I would hate to be her on judgement day. My God is a forgiving God and if I were Casey Anthony I would be down on my knees praying every nights praying for forgiveness.

    July 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Martin

      Since there is no God, then this is between Casey and her own self. Life is not fair, death is a part of the life we live. Children all over the world are dying each day, sometimes by the THOUSANDS. Where is the outrage over their deaths?

      July 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • SoundOfForest

      Martin, Christian churches have been helping them all along. Fattened rich should stop decrying and whining over overpopulation. It's lifestyle of the better-offs that is the problem for the planet.

      July 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • loriey

      Casey Anthony cares only for herself & she & her lawyers apparently aert rying to make megabucks on the murder of Caylee Anthony. How sick is that? Casey will be "rewarded" with huge payments of money (Al Taylor radio host) & Baez will reap a benefit in paid salary from the sale of interviews/photographs etc.
      Caylee Anthony is dead, more than likely at the hands of her mother Casey Anthony. Cindy Anthony "wants" to talk to her daughter but Casey refused even after Cindy Anthony commited perjury by lying about websearchs during the trial in an effort to save Casey's life.
      Casey will continue to lie, steal, cheat & use people to her own advantage.
      It has yet to be proven by anyone at anytime what "punishment" will be metered out after anyone dies.
      It's been said the Devil looks after his own, but even the Devil expects payback.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  15. Bruce

    I wish there was a way for Casey to tell the truth about what actually happened and that there was a way we could be convinced that she wasn't lying about what actually happened.

    My personal belief is that she killed her daughter unintentionally (therefore it was manslaughter and not murder in the first degree) with chloroform, and her intent was to knock her daughter out for the night so she could go out and party. She should be in jail (but not death row) for that crime.

    Can we bring ourselves to forgive the prosecution for overcharging this case? Had they charged only manslaughter and didn't focus on the bogus murder-one charge, Casey would have been convicted. It's the prosecution's fault that they went for the death penalty. Just because they also charged her with manslaughter doesn't let them off the hook, because the narrative of the murder case is completely contradictory to the narrative of a manslaughter case. To insist that the duct tape was a murder weapon when you don't have enough evidence to rule out that the tape was applied after Caylee was dead is to force the jury either to convict on murder-one or throw out the whole shebang. There is no middle ground when you lead with murder-one.

    The jurors gave the only decision they could have, because the prosecution failed. The prosecution failed all of us, and because of that none of us will ever know the truth of what actually happened. Casey Anthony didn't wrong me. She might have wronged her daughter and her family, but she's done nothing to me. The prosecution, on the other hand, has robbed us all of the truth because they went for that notch in their political belt. A death penalty conviction, especially a high-profile one, goes a long way in politics.

    I guess in that sense I can forgive them. They did what they did, they overcharged the case instead of pursuing the actual truth, because we as a people reward exactly that kind of behavior when it comes to prosecutors. As long as we have a death penalty, and as long as we–as a society–place some inordinate and disproportionate value on death penalty convictions as if they represent "justice" more than other penalties do, failures like this will continue to happen.

    Too many people would rather see tot-mom fry than to learn what actually happened. They value this "justice" of theirs higher than the truth. Forgive that.

    July 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • CC

      12 out of 12 jurors acquitted of manslaughter and child abuse. So what? Juries are sometimes wrong and I believe they were in this case.

      The prosecution did a fine job in my opinion. There was plenty of evidence to convict of murder 1, including incriminating internet searches and behavior absolutely inconsistent with an accident and perfectly consistent with guilt. Also duct tape doesn't get placed on a child's face by accident.

      I would have been squeamish to convict in a death penalty case as well, and in retrospect it was probably a mistake to seek it, but there would have been all sorts of criticism had the prosecution not sought it. I know first hand how tough it is to be on a jury, particularly in a criminal case. But juries can't be immune from criticism if they get something wrong.

      July 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • atlantic1

      Can we forgive the prosecution? You are ridiculous to even ask that. They did their job and followed the evidence, which they are supposed to do. She intentially kiilled her baby and the prosecution had evidence that she did. No one puts duct tape over a child's nose and mouth for any reason, other than to stop him/her from breathing.

      July 20, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  16. SoundOfForest

    Hope she repents.

    July 19, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  17. CC

    I don't feel anger toward Casey. Truthfully, I feel sorry for her. I expect she'll have a tough life and she'll eventually meet her maker as we all will. But I'm disturbed by this verdict. This verdict was all about salesmanship and not about the facts and law. There was more than enough to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

    July 19, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Bruce

      12 out of 12 jurors disagree.

      July 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.