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. Vera

    Mr. Wanis, you make an excellent point. People should forgive and move forward. It is the media - the likes of Nancy Grace - who at times fueld the anger/hatred. Ms. Grace pronounced Casey Anthony "Guilty" from Day 1 for the past 3 years. It is no surprise then that the public themselves feel they know the "truth" A trial took place, the defendant was acquitted....so be it! Lets move forward and let God be the Judge.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Human Being

      Apparently you are fighting this yourself since you feel you have to bring negative thoughts to the table about a television journalist. Easy to point the way to the path. Harder to walk on it in truth.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Kate

      Vera...OK forgive Casey if you want to but some of us like to see murderers behind bars where they can't harm anyone else. That is how a civilized society survives. Otherwise murderers would be running around murdering anyone and everyone they please because... Why the heck not...everyone will forgive me! It's too bad that you can't see how guilty Casey is but maybe you just don't want to see. You know..putting your head in the sand is a lot easier than facing the truth. Especially when the truth is that a pretty young woman brutally murdered her baby girl. Yeah the truth can be hard to swallow sometimes..but only for the weak minded.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  2. Steve Swoish

    Hey Nacho1, YES, I DO know who the REAL criminal is... she just walked out of jail, you MORON! I give her 2-3 weeks, she will be given justice by then.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • DC

      That sounds very threatening. You may soon be visited by homeland security.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  3. kathleen

    this person, at the very least threw the body of her 2 1/2 year old daughter wrapped in a trash bag into a swamp and left it to rot while she partied for 31 days. then she lied and played on the emotions of her family, law enforcement, the community, the nation until Caylee's remains were found in December of 2008. That is the absolute best picture you can put on this person. Forgiveness? Compassion, respect, dignity, words her attorney dorothy clay smith said the public should feel for this person. And now she is rubbing it in the taxpayers faces by appealing her misdemeanour lying convictions at further taxpayer expense. She will be going off to likely make money off the murder of her 2 1/2 year old daughter. Forgiveness?
    I guess the only feelings i have for kc are disgust and loathing. i;m just a member of the community, i don't have to or feel any need to 'forgive' and she does not need my 'forgiveness'. it is sickening reading 'experts' like dr wanis inferring that we should do otherwise.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  4. Sheila

    I wish people would cry for justice for all the parents who are falsely accused of child abuse and neglect in the state of Florida, but they don't. They "don't want to get involved". So why do they decide to get involved in this case ? Children of falsely accused families are victims too ! How come no one cries afoul when foster parents or adoptive parents or other placements result in harm or death of a child ?

    July 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Kate

      Sheila...People do cry fowl in those cases too. That is what our justice system is for. They get arrested, tried and hopefully sent to jail if they are guilty. But not all cases are publicized and televised like the Anthony case. Here is a case of person who is very obviously guilty and she was let go. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars were ultimately wasted by this jury because for some insane reason they could not find her guilty. I hope the next time Casey Anthony rips someone off or God forbid murders another person, that these jurors feel somewhat responsible for it. Because when they had the chance to PROTECT the public from this monster, they failed.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  5. Jsl

    Patrick Wanis you are another quack. You want to forgive her go for it buddy. I myself hope that karma catches up to her and that she has to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life. Forgive her...Really. What bull. I am sick of hearing her name and people like Patrick Wanis writing such crap.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  6. me

    Maybe Caylee can strike her mother down with lightning – that would be a lot more appropriate than hitting that tree. 😉

    July 17, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Nacho1

      Someone needs to pick up that tree and HIT you over the head with it so you will shut up.................you made a stupid statement...........if you are looking for attention...you just got it..

      July 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • JusticeDelayed

      We care about the child victim more than the criminal.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  7. Jenna

    The old "easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission" theory? Sorry, won't work. She will never be forgiven. Assassinated, maybe, hopefully, but not forgiven.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  8. Greg Gilbert

    I forgive CNN for being the pitchfork and torch network for 3 + years while this lady hadn't been pronounced guilty yet.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Nacho1

      CNN has always had a bad habit of TRYING to brain wash people into thinking negative thoughts..............it is the way that CNN does business...........they also do it at political conventions..........they send their reporters into war zones so they can get in the way of business.........they make statements that are untrue just to spike the reading public into thinking their way................CNN is the illegitimate child of the real news services.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Tracie

      Well said Greg! The prosecution is the one who couldn't prove their case, so if there is someone to blame for an acquital, there is your answer. I can't watch Nancy Grace anymore. I actually laughed when I saw her reaction to the verdict. I hate to admit that, but it's so true. She created this circus for the past 3 years and it backfired in her face. Let this be a lesson learned for the media.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • News Flash ....

      Sounds like you are really afraid of CNN. People can think for themselves, and just because they read a CNN article, or watch Fox News or watch NBC, or CBS, or ABC, or read Der Spiegle, or Paris Match doesn't mean they are so stupid and weak minded that they automatically adopt whatever they hear or read as their own view. You really have very little faith in the public. That's sad. Nobody can brainwash anybody, but you sure sound like you are afraid of that happening. Hmmm.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  9. rae

    .shes a swamp monster. If i were a ghost i would conjure any army and haunt her day and night. as soon as i heard the verdict i decided to forgive myself for giving her guilt a second of my attention. unfortunate the bad won this one. she is a nightmare and will probally accidently kill agian. protecting your loved ones and self and family and the good is the only energy worth wasting on her and her supporters and her supposed unpentratable bubble of lies and worped world. Its unfortunate that the bad won this one but her entire exsistince is crooked inside out all around and hopefully someday whatever piece holding it together is going to break.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  10. JusticeDelayed

    Your comparison of forgiving a Nazi and forgiving Casey Anthony is a good one.
    There are many Jews who forgave their Nazi captors. They did this for their own health and peace.
    But this does not remove the fact that those Nazis that ran the concentration camps were evil.
    You can forgive Casey Anthony, but it does not remove the fact that she is a murderer, and an evil person.
    She has not come clean about what happened, and in fact I believe that she is a dangerous person to have loosed on society, because she may repeat her crime.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Jenna

      You got it right.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  11. me

    I never bought into the whole "forgiveness of sins" thing.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  12. Jill

    I think everyone needs to worry about their own life. Why would you worry about someone you do not even know or the facts of the case. She'll meet her Maker just like all of us...YOU don't need to worry about it. Listen, all of you Curtain Twitchers are getting on my nerves. She was tried and it's over. So move the heck on and get over it. If you don't like it, move to another country and be stoned to death or be killed over normal, human belieifs., Otherwise, shut the HELL UP!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Walter

      We're getting on your nerves? LMAO! Then why don't you just shoot yourself in the head so you don't have to deal with it? Or, hey, here's an idea! Stop reading the stuff that bothers you. Idiot.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Kate

      Jill...take a chill pill! This is America – a free country with freedom of speach. We're allowed to say what we want. Maybe if you don't like it YOU should move to another country.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Response

      In short, no. I won't.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  13. rae

    .shes a swamp monster. If i were a ghost i would conjure any army and haunt her day and night. as soon as i heard the verdict i decided to forgive myself for giving her guilt a second of my attention. unfortunate the bad won this one. she is a nightmare and will probally accidently kill agian. protecting your loved ones and self and family and the good is the only energy worth wasting on her and her supporters and her supposed unpentratable bubble of lies and worped world. Its unfortunate that the bad won this one but her entire exsistince is crooked inside out all around and hopefully someday whatever piece holding it together is going to break.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  14. Klynne

    Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is letting go of anger. Anger only hurts the one that has been wronged. Jesus was right.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  15. Single mom of four

    I think the public needs to stop listen to the media and making judgements from what they say. They don't always get it right. Our Court system did what it should based on what they had, we may not like it! They did prove their case. She might be guilty but it was not proven! People should consider other case that are more obvious of guilt. Such as the women in Tampa that killed that Lottery winner and buried him in the cement at one of the house. She made a deal and is not getting the death penalty and she did it out greed!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • rae

      oh my !? momofour??!!!!.....??
      hopefully your not the next disaster ready to happen and that your children are protected.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  16. Nacho1

    The people who want vengeance and are hateful are people who have NO right to feel this way! It was NOT their child....it was NOT their life......they do NOT have a right to judge..........they do NOT have a right to threaten........these people are the people who need psychological help and NOT Casey Anthony...............Casey Anthony is in grief and has been...........she has lost a daughter she loves very much............she has been spit upon with words of hate..........she has been threatened by unstable people..............let justice have its day..............this case is DONE and CLOSED................those of you who had NO relationship with Casey or Caylee just need to GO HOME and ZIP IT UP! Stop playing God and jury and prosecutor and executioner and judge and just go about your OWN family business!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • JusticeDelayed

      You are telling people that they didn't know Caylee personally, so Caylee's murder is "none of their business".
      Murder in this society is EVERYBODY'S business. THAT IS WHY THE STATE PROSECUTES THE CASE!!!

      By your logic, if a homeless person with no family is murdered, since no one knew him, no one should pay attention to the case. WRONG!!! A Capitol crime is a crime AGAINST ALL OF US in this society.
      Chew on that for awhile!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Jsl

      Nacho1 get some mental help. All I can say is you are laughable. I can see you are one nut case on the loose. We should not care about any children other than our own? Okay have your warm milk and go back to the ward.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Mike

      I will now inform you why you are an idiot. Well, first I will inform you that you are, in fact, an idiot, since you it seems you haven't yet grasped this particular truth.

      You: "The people who want vengeance and are hateful are people who have NO right to feel this way! It was NOT their child....it was NOT their life......they do NOT have a right to judge..........they do NOT have a right to threaten......"

      Rebuttal: Everyone has a right to feel however they feel, so you're wrong right off the bat. The question you're getting at is "is it logical for them to feel that way?" And that answer is also yes. Those people you're talking about are members of society. When there is an obvious miscarriage of moral justice, which there was in this case, that is absolutely something that affects and concerns the entirety of american society. She wasn't my child, but she was a human child, and while Casey Anthony may not have killed her, she certainly had a hand in the death – perhaps an accidental hand, perhaps a hand that covered up evidence – but a hand. She then callously partied the night away for a month while knowing full well that her daughter was dead. That is indisputable fact. And yes, I have a right to feel moral outrage when that kind of behavior goes unpunished.

      By your logic nacho, human beings are only allowed to care about their blood relatives. In Nacho's world, we wouldn't be able to criticize the nazis for their genocidal acts, or Khadafi for his.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • Kate

      Hey Nacho: Are you really and idiot or are you just trying to stir things up on this blog? You are very opinionated for such a dumb sounding person.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • LMick

      Nacho1, you are an idiot. Do you personally know Casey Anthony? Or ARE you Casey Anthony? No? Then YOU don't know how Casey felt! Maybe she isn't grieving at all! Maybe she doesn't care at all!! Maybe she never loved little Caylee. YOU DO NOT KNOW! You are the kind of person who would walk away and turn the other cheek if you see wrong-doing. Something horrible could be happening and you would say "Ohwell....not my business." That is an awful way to live your life.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  17. Joe Dugan

    Patrick Wanis, Ph.D. is a cheap celebrity seeking fool.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Nacho1

      YOU are certainly the fool....this case is NONE of your business..........take care of your OWN dirty laundry and let justice have its day. People who keep their ears to the wall and their nose stuck in someone elses open door really needs psychological help and that means YOU!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • JusticeDelayed

      Joe Dugan is a member of society, therefore, any crime this horrific against society IS HIS BUSINESS!!!!
      He doesn't have to know the victims personally, nor do any of us, in order to demand justice be done as a member of society. I happen to think that the verdict in this case was a travesty, and that the jury, instead of using the standard 'BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, used the standard 'ALL EXPLANATIONS ARE EQUAL AND ACCEPTABLE TO EXPLAIN THIS DEATH'.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  18. Joe Dugan

    Patrick Wanis, Ph.D. Get a real job and leave forgiveness to a higher power. Besides that, there are too many lawyers and too many cheap brain suckers about these days all looking to cash in on a two year olds brutal death.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Nacho1

      YOU are a STRANGER to that family and therefore NONE of your business. YOU have no relationship to that family. Nobody died and made you God........you need to GROW UP!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  19. T Baxter

    hard to forgive when justice was not served...My questions What is it costing us to protect her when she did nothing to protect sweet caylee?

    July 17, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  20. Myamigo

    What Wanis did not say about Eva is how long it took her to forgive the Nazis for what they did to her and her sister. Healing is a process that can take a lot of takes time and forgiveness, if it's to be considered part of healing in both of these cases, did and will take lots of time. Individuals are free to vent their outrage in whatever way they prefer so long as it is legal. Casey should experience the disdain that the general community feels for her. She should not be forgiven... just yet.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:53 am |
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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.