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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. Balad

    You could forgive her in case she was really guilty by the law!? The most important thing here is to find out the rooted cause(s) why she has been to blame by people. Is it because of the verdict is not convincible and fair enough or of the mass media effects? I believe that even Anthony herself won't accept what she didn't do in case she really didn't do it. I won't be on the opposite side to the writer. His writing is really good and convincible. He has decent and principled mind. However, what if Casey were his own lovely daughter? What would he do to make him calm down as if there were nothing happened? I don't promote anger or violence. I truthfully hate these kinds of thoughts, but I believe there is justice existing in this world. People who have done or doing what is really wrong should receive what is right for their activities! No one should die for nothing even though we could not save their lives back!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  2. Marc

    I think this article is less about Casey Anthony than it is about how we, the readers, react to injustices in our own life. I see that Casey Anthony is only mentioned 5 times in this article, but Eva Kor is mentioned 7 times! Forgiving is hard work, but I'm going to try...

    July 17, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • TheTruth

      Hitler must be CNN's God because they keep promoting him.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  3. Don G.

    I agree with Greg!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  4. Joseph Mzrnski

    and when the next kid is killed...just forgive again....and again and again.

    tools like this twist Christianity into a suicide pact for normal, law abiding citizens

    July 17, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  5. justice

    Networks would be you please stop covering this story!!!!!,
    NO interviews, NO follow-ups, NO movies, NO books... a Child is dead..an no one has taken responsiblity for that!!!!
    we the public are sick of seeing these faces staring at us from the screen and TV's.
    Everyone please boycott following any news about this person direct or indirect, if we has a society collectively boycott these specimens..that would be justice in itself.....

    July 17, 2011 at 7:21 am |
  6. dav

    I'll take it one further and submit that when these idiot stop trying to nullify the jury and move ob with their lives, we'll all be a lot better off. The trial is over. In our system juriies decide the truth not flash mobs. Go the f&)_) home, you're costing the taxpayers extra police patrols and we need the money for other things.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  7. Keith

    Once again I will be the voice of reason. It appears the people in Florida don't adhere to the judicial system, they have their own feelings and that's that, not only can a person not be found guilty, but then they have to have the media hanging onto it feeding Floridian's people with fire and gasoline, not just letting things go, HLN and CNN and other news agencies just love to fuel the emotion, not caring if anyone is truly innocent, oh, no one in innocent in Florida or in the media's eyes, thank god for the innocence project, other wise Florida would be a prison state.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  8. Ron

    No!!! No!!! No!!!...... I am sick and tired of innocent children getting killed taken, and stupid stuff happening for no reason, it's sick, And I am tired of it , I believe in God whole Heartily but she will reap what she sows...Her life needs to be hard until she repents to the world what she did, and I am getting enough of people telling EVERYONE to just let it go , No!!! it that works for you than great. I say boycott her in everything she does and hopefully she will move to some third world country and get out of this one lie to others all she wants and take Jose and the whole team with here and that would be what I call justice......

    July 17, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • paul

      God is in the forgiveness business, not I. May she have a long and painful death.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • Lee

      Where does it end. Should we believe her that her father abused her when she was a child? SHould we believe her father that he did not? Taking your approach, considering that she was once a child, we should automatically believe her, and therefore the father should also be osticized by society. What about your own children or children you have known. I'm sure there are occasions that you have offended some little ones. Should you be ostricized to the extent that you have committed offense?

      Our legal system has done its part in an attempt to find guilt, and none was found. It is now time to repair the broken legal system and repair the living but broken hearts. Let God take care of the dead, because he is better at that than we are, and let us do our part to take care of the living.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  9. Josh

    I am sure she will not even wait 24 hours before she is cruising the craiglist ads looking for her next hookup

    July 17, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  10. Cats

    What a load of condescending tripe. The child is dead. It was likely an accident or improper handling of her that went wrong and a young woman who could not cover it up. This happens all the time to people on varying levels. Do you drink and drive? Text and Walk? Leave your kids with strangers everyday? Anything can happen. The problem with Casey Anthony is what has been made obvious: she has no ability to deal with real life, no coping capabilities, she is probably severely mentally ill and emotionally stunted. She might even be a sociopath, who knows? At any rate, forgiveness is a silly, infantile idea. No one is forgiven, not really. But we do, at some point, need to move on if we want to live in the present. She was ruled not guilty and now her life is no one's business. Just move on. And be happy in spite of your past. Happy people make life easier on everyone.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • greg

      i think that the reporters for cnn and hln are very prejudice against casey she went through the corut system like everyone is suppose to do but the reporters made there own decisions and convicted her even though she was found not guilty the press is going to cause her death by causing so many problems she was found not guilty so in america that means she should be free and left alone the people that want her dead are no better then her if she did it

      July 17, 2011 at 7:10 am |
    • jaysunstar

      "At any rate, forgiveness is a silly, infantile idea." .....That was one of the most unintelligent remarks made by what would otherwise seem to be an intelligent person. The purpose of forgiveness is NEVER meant for the one committing the crime. If the victim cannot forgive, they cannot heal. Plain and simple. For those who harbor anger towards those who have done an injustice, forgiveness is their only salvation. Otherwise you continue to suffer from anger and wind up taking it out on innocent bloggers 😉 To call forgiveness "an infantile idea", shows you are being shallow and dismissive of a higher concept that you refuse to examine seriously.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Joseph Mzrnski

      the point of incarceration of murderous psychos and other dangerous freaks is to PROTECT THE NEXT VICTIM you God damn moron.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  11. rs1201

    Casey Anthony is a very poor excuse for a human being. Even if she didn't kill her daughter, she's guilty of pure neglect and not caring that her daughter had disappeared. What parent does this psychologist know of that would go out dancing and tattooing knowing that her daughter was missing. It's inconceivable to most of us that a parent would be so uncaring to the extent that her daughter was killed and this monster never mourned her for a second. Parents that I know are literally dead the day that they bury their child. They just go through the motions of a living person but they might as well be dead and buried also.
    No one should harm Casey Anthony or that person risks falling to the depths of human behavior that C.Anthony finds herself at today. Her punishment is that the day that she finally acquires a conscience...she may realize the monstrosity of her actions and that may be enough to kill herself. If she never acquires a conscience, then I'm quite sure that this depraved woman will commit another crime that will land her in jail for life this time...just like OJ Simpson.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  12. DrMabuse

    I'll forgive her when she owns up and atones for her transgressions. She needs to be punished within our legal system for what she did, and not as the deluded think she will be punished: before an imaginary being born out of human delusion.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Kana

      Casey Anthony was tried and acquitted through our legal justice system. Your implication she should be punished regardless of the juries findings is on the verge of vigilantism and is not consistent with our legal justice system. Vigilantism would be more in line with extremism and taking the law into your own hands. Are you willing sacrifise your life and to go to jail just for the sake of vengeance?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • DrMabuse

      You totally misread and misunderstood my comment–I didn't mention vigilantism and I didn't mention I was going to do something outside the law. Please, brush up on your English comprehension. Read it again.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  13. nepawoods

    The key missing piece in this article is why Casey Anthony in particular should be forgiven. I mean, think of all the tax dollars we could save if we just got rid of the entire justice system, and forgave everyone, no matter what their crime.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  14. ALH

    Thank you for writing this thought provoking article. If we do not forgive and we continue to let anger and resentment control our lives then we will never have peace in our lives. While I do feel this girl is guilty, I believe that God is the ultimate judge in this matter. And if at some point she receives Him into her heart I believe He will forgive her just as I believe He has forgiven me. Until then she and her entire family are in my prayers.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:30 am |
  15. Jake Wheeler

    Totally disagree. The anger and revenge serves a useful purpose in ensuring that no more little girls end up in the swamp.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • xlntcat

      Moreover, forgiving does not include a failure to hold the perpetrator accountable, to continue to expose yourself to further victimization by the perpetrator or to expect that your forgiveness will alter the perpetrators behavior in the future. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself to free yourself from the enslavement of anger and bitterness. In this case, forgiveness of Casey should not mean a failure to recognize that across this country parents kill their own children everyday and get no more that a slap in the wrist and are freed to do it all over again.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  16. Richard

    Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord – Romans 12:19

    July 17, 2011 at 6:24 am |
  17. belmont

    Just like when a guilty person gets free, there are also times when an innocent person gets executed. I just find it really strange how no one gets as upset when it's the other way around. That's human nature for you.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • John Richardson

      Fewer people may get upset and that is indeed a worrisome trait of humanity. But don't say that no one gets upset when the innocent are punished, let alone executed, Many get very upset and some have dedicated their lives to preventing that from happening.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  18. John Richardson

    This article is incoherent. On the one hand, it is a "constructive" use of anger to make sure future Casey Anthonys are punished for failing to report incidents, but the person whose inaction inspire these new laws should be forgiven. If she should, why are we deciding in advance that others, including others who may be holding back in stunned silence rather than partying, shouldn't?

    And I'm tired of the incessant "but this won't bring the victim back" argument. NOTHING will bring murder victims back. The death penalty won't. Jail terms won't. And forgiveness won't. The irretrievability of a loss is irrelevant to the discussion of what if anything should be done about that loss.

    Finally, the assumption that forgiveness is obviously and automatically right because it is good for the forgiver is also without merit. This is really an argument from self indulgence. It may be liberating in some psychological sense to the victim to forgive, but it is also "liberating" to thugs and monsters to know that they live in a society that is quick fo forgive. Sometimes we owe it to the civilization we all want to live in to hold onto that sense of outrage until justice is served. Otherwise, we become a nation of enablers for the absolute worst in humanity.
    ,

    July 17, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  19. Gary

    Even though Jesus died for all the sins of everyone, he sent his church to tell that forgiveness to all. So too individual Christians. They do not forgive in the abstract. They go to the person and forgive face to face. That person first asks for forgiveness after confessing that they indeed did sin. In order for Casey Anthony to receive forgiveness, that is to hear it and get peace from it, she first needs to confess her sin. Whether that is causing her child's death by commission or omission, or lying or defaming another's reputation. And if she has no faith in Jesus, any forgiveness is mere noise. It may assuage guilt, but accomplishes nothing for Casey, a sinner, for whom Christ died for and who desires her to know the truth: that she is a sinner and that his forgiveness gives her peace with God. If she is not a Christian, then we can pray for her to this end. If she is a Christian we can pray for her to confess her sin and ask for forgiveness.

    For those who seek revenge or wish Casey harm, if they are Christian they need to ask forgiveness for putting justice in their hands and not leaving it to God. If they are not Christian, then forgiveness merely assuages guilt, but it does not give peace with God.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • johanna

      Gary, you have a point. However, the author of this article states that forgiveness is beneficial for the victim even more so than for the perpetrator. Eva forgave all the nazis – i don't believe they all have asked for forgiveness. She can now move on with her life instead of clinging on to a 'technicality' that the nazis did not ask for forgiveness in the first place. Those that murdered Jesus also did not ask for forgiveness....

      July 17, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • Richard

      Her "confession", whatever and whenever that may be, is only between her and God. What others in this fallen world think or say is irrelevant and cannot come between her and the Lord.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Richard "Confessing" to some imaginary being means absolutely nothing. What matters is her relationship with the society she is supposed to live in. The vigilantism some seem to support is as at least as destructive to civilized society as overquick forgiveness of a person who at the very least exhibited depraved indifference to the life and death of her daughter. But sayingn that this is between her and some "God" is the same as saying its only her business, period. And that is incorrect.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  20. James

    Don't most of you have better things to do? Everybody complains about this woman. How about worry about things you can change in stead of complaining about things you can't. I don't know if she did it or not, but if she did you think they would have something more than just questionable behavior. Get on with you lives, the trial is over.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:07 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.