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

    Sorry, I was wrong in mentioning Casey were the writer's own daughter! In fact, I meant Caylee instead. I am sorry to confuse.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  2. moveon

    All this talk of forgiveness by the public is a load of B.S. There are thousands of cases of murder and mayhem happening every day in America and across the world Its time for those obsessed with the Casey Anthony case to move on with their own lives. Get a job, career ..have something to do and then you wont be so obsessed about someone else's fortune or misfortune.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  3. George

    When you forgive someone, it's like releasing a prisoner from jail, and realizing that prisoner is you. Often times the person you are angry with doesn't even know you are angry, and it's ruining your day, your dinner, your life. Forgive her and go on with your life.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  4. Gator

    Forgiveness is a wonderful thing but as humans there are things we should never forget. With casey this means consider forgiving her for murdering a child god blessed her with and as a mothr she should want to protect? Instead she murdered the child and threw her in afield with tape on her face.....never forget what she did to a little girl.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  5. thankgod

    I had a dream last night that Jose was arranging for Casey Anthony and OJ. Simpson to hook up and get married and get a reality show to see which one can survive in the house together the longest without killing the other and tell the the truth of what happens at the end . Maybe it will be called the Pathiloogical liar lives with the Juice. oh!!!! no!!!!!!!what a couple. Glad I woke up from that and prayed.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  6. Chey

    Forgive a child killer? Not likely. Hell on earth and hell for eternity is her fate. The female O.J. is free!! Perhaps some nut will take a shot at her to be a hero. Better question: Will her family forgive her for extingushing a treasured innocent grandchild and niece? Maybe...but it is their choice. Casey is a very bad seed. Not a word from her lying lips has any merit. I will not support any blood money (movies, interviews, etc.) pertaining to this woman and her diabolical actions. I had to shut HLN off this A.M. Enough coverage on this sicko Casey. Please focus on other important trials.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • CJ

      Your anger and hate will not bring Caylee back. Didn't you not read the article on the challenge of forgiveness. Jesus asked his Father to forgive the pople that were murdering him because they know not what they are doing. Eva said she forgave all Nazis for the death of her family. Direct all that anger at helping abused children, You might find yourself a happier person freed from all the rage and guilt inside you. If someone murders Casey A. they are no better than the accused.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • TheTruth

      CJ – the article is perverting the words of Jesus.

      That quote means that the Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was "innocent," and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence,

      The difference? Casey KNEW what she was doing was wrong and did it ANYWAY.

      Only God and his Son can forgive her. As to anger being in one's heart, it is best to get rid of it by getting her locked up for life.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  7. Pam

    Gofferback, with all due respect, you are absolutely wrong about forgiveness not being able to be granted if it is not asked for. People forgive for themselves, not for the other person. You're right, there is no obligation to forgive, but we can forgive even if we're not apologized to. The two don't have a thing to do with each other. I didn't ask Christ to forgive my sins before he died on the cross for them.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  8. 4th wright

    It's very difficult to forgive someone you are convinced committed murder, and escaped or eluded justice. Do we forgive the killer of a child who remains at large?

    July 17, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • TheTruth

      It is up to God to forgive her. It was up to us to make sure she was punished in Court.

      The quote from Jesus meant that the Romans did not know he was the Son of God, and that the Jewish people did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country.

      It did NOT mean that we are to forgive someone who KNOWINGLY killed their child. Big difference.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • 4th wright

      I disagree. We are told to forgive others numerous times in the Bible. "...As we forgive those who trespass against us..." We are warned, however, not to judge others. Judgement - like revenge, we are told, is only for God.

      I also disagree that the Jews knew Jesus was innocent. Certainly some did not believe He deserved to die. But many, especially the religious leaders, saw Him as a threat to the peace and stability of the region, if not to the survival of their own power.

      Christ taught forgiveness. I, like many others, strive to apply that lesson daily. Some days are better than others.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  9. Ann

    Perhaps this psychologist is corret. Forgiveness.
    Cayleee, who would be entering 1st grade next month should forgive her Mohter.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  10. LIs

    "Even if Casey Anthony had been found guilty and were to be put to death, would that help Caylee or other living children? "
    So what are you saying? Don't bother about trying to get justice for murder victims because they are already dead and will not come back to life? The point is to give a voice to those who don't have one anymore and to prevent these criminals to commit crimes in the future. If Casey gets pregnant again and kills another child again, then the justice system is going to feel like idiots that they could not prevent that from happening. So it might not help Caylee, but it would help those of us who are still here and have to live with the woman being free!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • rh

      Same goes for the "accused" killer in Brooklyn, the boy is dead so we should just move on.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  11. jim

    "But does the anger, revenge and bitterness help bring back Caylee?"

    Does forgiveness?

    July 17, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • TheTruth

      They've perverted the meaning of what Jesus said. Look up the passage and it's meaning.

      It meant that the Romans did not know he was the Son of God and the Jewish people did not know what calamaties they would bring forth.

      The difference? Casey KNEW what she was doing. Only God can forgive her. God asks that you don't keep hate in your heart, but you can keep Justice.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  12. B

    Honestly I find this rather self righteous article. You quote Eva Kor who ".. 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.” Then you speak of Jesus asking God to forgive his tormentors. Well, you might notice that in the VICTIMS are the ones that are doing the forgiving. Because someone actually was sorry they for what they did. By the way those are the victims that survived.
    Casey Anthony never admitted anything about anything. All she came out with is that it was someone else fault. never an explanation or even a tear for her child. The only one who has a right to forgive is lying in a grave. She can't say " it's okay mommy I forgive you" .

    How people handle anger is an individual issue. This woman like the Nazis or any other murderer isn't in need of forgiveness, they need to grow a conscience. Then , maybe the rest of the world can start to make sense of the depths of depravity some people will sink to and with that put it away in it's proper place in our minds and hearts. It will never be forgiveness. Only the victim can offer that.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • TheTruth

      This auther is perverting the meaning of the words of Jesus "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

      Deceivers – who's side are you on CNN?

      That quote means that the Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was "innocent," and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence,

      Forgiveness was ONLY for the fact that they did NOT know who he was, NOT that they should be forgiven of their SINs.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  13. J wallace

    Forgiveness releases 3 powerful chemicals by the brain which BOOST the immune system
    Why would we not want to forgive ? Spite and Selfishness. !

    July 17, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  14. gofferback

    There are several elements of Patrick's argument of forgiving Casey Anthony that, in my opinion, are flawed. The biggest one is that at no time has any wrongdoing been admitted. Forgiveness cannot be extended, if no one has asked for it. Casey Anthony has never asked for forgiveness. She has stood defiant and self-righteous. Any obligation to extend forgiveness does not exist. The citing of Jesus' words on the cross is also flawed on many levels not the least of which is taking His words out of context of both time and the event itself. It's not forgiveness that is needed. It is to recognize that Casey Anthony was tried and acquitted. She was not given a not guilty verdict. As such, and as a conservative Christian, I can only shake my head and move on and let the Almighty deal with the rest. But most importantly, what REALLY needs to happen is FOR THE NEWS MEDIA TO STOP COVERING THIS. Go find some other news. STOP TRYING TO MAKE NEWS HAPPEN.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • 4th wright


      July 17, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • TheTruth

      +1,000,000 They are filling their news with filth

      July 17, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  15. Sam

    When Jesus said to forget, I don't think he said it so that people followed him as role model. Find one person on the planet who strictly follow Jesus? Only Jesus can be Jesus and so are other messiahs. I don't understand how people take positions, and get quickly into decisions how they want to react based on Jesus.

    If we all become Jesus, then there is no Jesus being role model. We all become him.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  16. Balad

    Oh, I have an idea!!! Why don't we let Anthony reveal the truth via mass media? Water can sink as well as flow, right?

    July 17, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  17. steve

    typical idiotic comment from a nerd. i bet he would think differently if it was one of his.
    that guy needs his brains examined!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  18. aginghippy

    It's possible to forgive someone for being an imperfect human, and still desire to see that person face consequences for her actions. It's not so much about punishing Anthony as it is sending a message to others, that in a civilized society, you can't do whatever you please and suffer no consequences. The interesting ting about all of the indignation, however, is that the most vocal in crying for her to be punished have apparently not considered the possibility that she is innocent. If a court of law cannot find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then do we want her to suffer consequences for something she did not do? As much as it frightens me to think of a child killer going free, I am just as frightened, if not more frightened, by the number of innocent people who spend years in prison, only to be exonerated by new evidence like DNA. Those of you who profess a belief in a God should thank your imaginary friend that you live in a nation that requires that a jury has enough evidence to PROVE your guilt before you are locked in a cage for life, or killed in the name of "justice".

    July 17, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • 4th wright

      I was with you all the way up to the "imaginary friend" shot. Couldn't resist hurting someone, could you?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • robbie

      Ok, I do get your point on "what if she was innocent" but my issue with that is...why didnt she do the right thing and report her baby being accidently drowned??? That right there, shows that Ms. Anthony is guilty of something...but unfortunately the state of Florida dont have a law that punishes people for not reporting "death accidents" ...So...with that being said, i hope you get the picture of why only maybe a few people, yourself included, can not swallow the whole innocent thing...

      July 17, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • aginghippy

      4th wright,
      If you believe that your God is not imaginary, how can my assertion that he IS imaginary hurt you? I'll admit that it was "a shot" which I could not resist, because this opinion piece is in the Belief Blog, a place where I would imagine many believers congregate, and yet most of the comments are hateful. And it reeks of irony that a man of God has to REMIND other people of God that they should try to forgive.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • robbie


      July 17, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • 4th wright

      You are right. Many comments here are hateful. Some are by religious people, some are by anti-religious people. They are all people. I try to get my points across without taking "shots" at what others believe. The hippy movement I was associated with was a lot more tolerant of the feelings of others. But, by all means, it's your right, man.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • aginghippy

      4th wright,
      Try living as an atheist in America, then tell me all about tolerance.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  19. Stevereeno

    I'm not telling anyone to go hurt her,..................but she killed her own child.

    So, I hope she steps out in front of a speeding truck.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • steve

      while i understand your frustration along with many others.
      we can not resort to any type of violence. that would bring us to her level.
      she will have her hell on earth. she is a marked woman from this day forward and that's a rough life to live always being afraid. there is no freedom. you can have all the wealth in the world, but if you are confined to your mansion, the taste isn't so sweet!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  20. Reality

    Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:29 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.