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. andogigi

    Does that mean we don't have to hear about this anymore?

    July 17, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  2. wyciwyg

    whether or not Casey actively participated in the demise of her child (i believe she DID infact chlorofprm and duct tape that baby), the FACT remains Casey repeatedly LIED to everyone about Caylee's whereabouts, allowed a false accusation of incest and adultry against her dad in order to sway the jurors' opinion, emotion and sympathy, and like OJ got away with miurder. Her pouty (brat) demeanor in court and her actions after Caylee disappeared speak volumns to most of us who, as parents, cannot fathom allowing a child to "disappear" for over a month without raising all kinds of alarms.

    Instead she parties hearty. Shame of Casey, shame her attorneys for clouding the issue of MURDER with the fantasy of incest and adultry to misdirect jurors' attention. Shame p the jurors for lettng this pathological, narcissistic individual get away with murder of an innocent who loved aND DEPENDED on Casey to safeguard that child.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Darren Bly

      Would the same article have been written for OJ Simpson?

      July 17, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  3. candy

    For someone who's supposed to be an expert and there to help, you're shockingly clueless:
    "But does the anger, revenge and bitterness help bring back Caylee?" - Doesn't this apply to every single murder case? So we shouldn't prosecute any body ever.

    "What positive purpose might it serve?" - It serves so many purposes: Warning that people might beat the law, but not public cryout for justice; a review of our lousy jury system; etc.
    "Does Casey Anthony’s case cry out for forgiveness," - It's not for us ordinary citizens to forgive her.

    "if a Holocaust survivor could forgive the people that poisoned her and tried to exterminate her family" - Haven't you seen any of those Nazi-hunter movies at all?

    July 17, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • JusticeDelayed

      Attention Everybody!!! Let's all hold hands and forgive Adolph Hitler!

      After all, it's the right thing to do – NOT!
      Hitler is burning in Hell for eternity, where he belongs, and I am glad!!

      But I do like your comparison of Casey Anthony to the Nazis.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • DC

      prescott bush trading with the enemy. Hitler was a patsy.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  4. sag coopersmith

    Good luck getting people to "forgive" this creton! She killed Caylee and got ABC and the state of Florida to pay for her "dream team" defense. I won't be forgiving that sorry excuse for a jury, either. I will only try hard to forgive myself for the amount of time I spent watching the trial. The Prosecutors presented a crystal clear case and too many people (Jury Foreman included) want to rescue the damsel. She'll get her just rewards one day...meanwhile, Sinnday has undoubtedly forgiven her, she's got to be the only one!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • rae

      perfectly said! thumbs up

      July 17, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  5. Kornelia Strong

    To P. Wanis, PhD,

    You sound like an idealist? I am a realist. What do you propose we do with heinous criminals who rain horror upon the very society in which they live!?
    Surely you do not propose that we simply forgive them and pray hard enough so that they don't repeat the crime?

    I leave the forgiving to God and to Jesus. We will all have to face our maker.

    I leave justice to our justice system, which grossly failed a little two year old angel.

    I feel pain, sorrow, betrayal, disappointment, disgust, etc..

    I do not feel anger, hate, rage, vindictive, etc..

    I trust that justice will prevail and that little Caylee will be able to rest in peace. I accept the current events, as I can not change them. I will not forgive Anthony, I leave that for God to do. I hope and pray for peace and justice for Caylee and her loved ones. Casey Anthony will be just fine. My heart also goes out to her parents. I hope that they will find their peace.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  6. krehator

    N U T B A G S

    July 17, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  7. Nick

    I wonder if this author's kid was murdered in the same way, would he apply his background of human behavior, or just go with his gut and feel rage.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • DC

      Yes because rage is the first thing everyone should feel right away when anything goes wrong.
      Nobody ever makes bad decisions while enraged... right?

      No amount of jumping around and frothing at the mouth is going to accomplish anything useful.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  8. Jason

    My church believes that when someone forgives, it's more for the forgiver and their peace of mind. For the people who are having a hard time with the verdict to the point of feeling inwardly tortured, this might be something to consider. Forgive her for you, not her, but only when you know you are ready.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • DC

      Well said. People would do well to remember that.

      Understanding this concept is a step towards freeing our minds.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  9. jmsramsey

    Can't we just drop this thing? If she killed Caylee, which she probably did, the man upstairs will take care of her when they meet again.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • DC

      A bad trip on some psychoactive chems might be entertaining for her. Get a dark room and chains and wear some black robes and dark masks. Chanting "what did you do" where is she" suffocation"

      July 17, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  10. JulienDUI

    The author of this article should stop and think about the terrifying way Caylee may have died. I am going to speak for myself and the millions of other people in this world who suffe from COPD,Emphysema,Sarcoidosis and many other lung and heart problems that make it difficult to breath.

    I have had a disease called Sarcoidosis for 3 years and it is in my lungs.I was recently told by my PCP that I might live another 4 or 5 months. This past winter I had to go out in 10 degree weather....and walk in knee deep snow to check the oil level in the tank for my furnace. I lost my heat. I was foolish because I didn't bring my mask to cover my nose and mouth. The tank is about 60 ft. from the door. As I reached the tank I suddeny couldn't breath. I turned and headed back. I had already gone about 40 seconds without air and realized I only had about 20 seconds left before I would pass out in the snow and probably die from the cold at midnight.

    If the chloroform didn't put Caylee to sleep she suffered a terrifying death. There is nothing more terrifying than feeling like you have a plastic bag over your head.....just waiting to die. Asthma sufferers know all to well what it feels like and the relief they get from their inhalers. Luckily,I was able to crawl to my door and get inside. As soon as the warm air got into my lungs...I started to breath again. I couldn't believe I made it inside and am still alive.

    I only hope that she didn't have to experience the terror that I did. I hope she wasn't struggling for her last breath while looking into her mother's eyes and asking herself ....why is mommy doing this to me?

    She died at the hands of a monster and to ask me to forgive the killer disgusts me..

    July 17, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • DC

      Well if she was knocked out with chloroform when she died it probably was pretty painless.

      That doesn't excuse anything of course let's just be honest here.

      I'd prefer not to be conscious when I die. But sadly for me I will probably get hit by a stray bullet or get hit by a car and bleed out for several hours while gasping feebly as I watch the world fade to black.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  11. Sarah M.

    I've forgiven her. I think this story was a good one.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  12. JPX

    She is a sociopath who clearly murdered her daughter, forgiveness?

    July 17, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • DC

      Sociopaths also wear $1000 suits and take bribes... I mean campaign contributions.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  13. Deborah Jean

    I have forgiven many people for different things. This will not be one of those instances. It's not as if she stole money or took her parents car and got a dent in it. This is a murder we're talking about, a murder in which she feels no remorse, and it was her own child that she killed. The only person she should worry about forgiving her, is herself.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  14. mike

    Hey CNN stop trying to be nice to Casey to get the first interview. Forgiveness please- 80% think she is guilty you better put on your website what the majority want or you will lose viewers.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  15. justice4Caylee


    July 17, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • DC

      Get Casey a few hits of LSD and have people dress up like reapers whispering and chanting for a few hours and I'll bet you get her to admit a few things.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  16. Foxtrot571

    There are many things in life that defy understanding and when you accept that, you can move on to priorities and issues in life that you can wrap your head around. Although our society feels strongly about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, our system of justice elevates us above societies (such as those we read about in the Middle East) that do not restrain these emotionally laden primal urges. We should honor Caylee and all children whose lives are taken far too soon with affection and not debase their memories by being captive of anger and hatred. Casey will carry a burden far beyond any of us could ever know. We may not be able to forgive, but let's leave Casey alone.Two wrongs don't make a right.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  17. RipVanWinkle

    Forgiveness? I won't read your B.S. story, and F – YOU!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • rae

      i agree

      July 17, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  18. Jim

    Hey Nacho – Neaber or whatever your name is. I have every right that all of these posters do to say what ever I want. Just WHO DO YOU THINK ARE to tell other people what the know and don't know. Go pound sand somewhere muchacho pequeño.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  19. Kris173117157981754

    Anger is needed to keep the public alert to shut down any money making PR opportunities for this Casey Anthony excuse for a person. With so many good, honest, decent people struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, what a travesty it would be for the public to allow this pariah, who after all is a criminal, she was convicted on the misdemeanor criminal counts of misleading (read: lying) to investigators after all, profit or prosper as a result of her criminal acts.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  20. Paul Ronco

    >>Even if Casey Anthony had been found guilty... would that help... other living children? Would it truly free us in our hearts?

    Apparently it wouldn't have mattered much to you.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:14 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.