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. Mark Shaffer

    The trial is over. She has been found not guilty...although I believe otherwise. But in the process a new crime has been committed. The crime of never ending hours long coverage of Casey's release from jail.

    Hopefully CNN and the other news outlets will find their way back to solid news instead of milking this story to death. What's going to be next?? "Just in to CNN....Casey Anthony ordered a strawberry slurpee at 7-11. Stay tuned for details of this shocking revelation with our continuing coverage."

    July 17, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  2. jj

    Are you kidding me? Forgive Casey? She kept lied, forgive her. Are you nuts? yes u re. She lied on her dad, she killed baby with her damn hands, She kept lie lie lie lie lie... Forgive her? I know damn that won't bring caylee back . WE DID NOT ASK TO BRING CAYLEE BACK... WE WANT JUSTICE FOR CAYLEE!!!!!! If casey admit, i will forgive her. I can't forgive her. You are silly... I will never forgive her if she keeps lie. forgive her no way. She is very dangerous.....WATCH out BOZO your next! she will blackmail you Bozo... BOZO will be hell due to her little white lie it makes big deal.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TXZag

      If you have any interest in growing as a human being, read, "No Future Without Forgiveness," by Desmund Tutu. If that doesn't help you better understand what the good doctor is saying here, then you are probably beyond help. The western idea of justice is flawed, but because of our blood-lust we'll never be able to understand how or why. But there is a reason that all of the major religions preach forgiveness, and it's not arbitrary or to be means-tested, either.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  3. Mike Smith

    FORGIVENESS? I am still in shock!! Had this been a black mother or Latino mother they would have been executed BEFORE the trial. This laughable crap in America called justice is BULL-SHYT!! A child is murdered and we should never worry about tryuly having justice for the child but move immediately to forgiveness man I cant believe it

    July 17, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  4. Paul NYC

    Many people don't want "justice", they want revenge. A very unhealthy emotion.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  5. Rocky in Belmont, NC

    FORGIVNESS??? Maybe if she got LIFE IN PRISON, I would have concidered it. Now that she's a free woman, The FIRST thing she needs to do is have her damn TUBES TIED!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  6. Neil Samuels

    I beg to differ as would one of brilliant and enlightened psychoanalyst of the last 100 years, Dr. Alice Miller. Forgiveness DOES not heal, what contributes to healing is both the process of freedom to slow access and integration of all our feelings without the underlying commandant passed down intergenerationally from parent to child, THOU SHALL NOT BE AWARE and ipso facto, blindly forgive lest without forgiveness ye cannot become whole. This is the myth that has been blindly and ceaselessly perpetuated upon generation after generation for time immemorial. Repressed or unlived, half or unconsciously accessed anger, rage destroys much more than the unconsciously driven necessity and commandment to "forgive." Forgiveness is an option NOT a necessity. It often fuels the flame of fear of our own unresolved, unlived feelings and so we sacrifice the inner turmoil of coming to gain access with often the blind save-all repression of "Forgiveness."

    The alternative (the great blind spot in this idiot author and many others) to forgiveness is revenge or pent up rage. However, what is not understood by this author and many others is that Consciously accessed anger and rage and blame (without the unconscious fear of retribution vis a vis children face with their parents, the majority who come from pathologically dysfunctional families) is sign and insignia of healthy integration and conscious maturity. Blind Forgiveness (or forgiveness that comes with the admonition, that unless you do you will not be whole) destroys far more than it heals (as it perpetually lives in denial or incomplete access to its unresolved feelings) and is more infantile, though it is difficult for many to actually appreciate and see this. It is unresolved feelings that cannot be expressed freely that cause great turmoil.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Jerry1970

      You seem to be pretty proud of yourself and your belief. However, you are making a very wrong assumption in what this article says. The author is talking about real forgiveness without "pent-up rage". If forgiveness is given there is no pent-up rage. Furthermore, this "misguided" teaching is the teaching of Jesus and also every healthy person I have ever met. And it is this: let go of what you cannot control. You are talking in the abstract and sound really good. However, what good does your rambling do in relation to the anger over Casey Anthony? Are you saying that it's healthy to maintain this personal hatred of someone you don't even know? How is that healthy?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  7. News Flash

    After multiple attempts, and NOT being "moded" but having my post "disappear", I am giving up. I have left a response to the Anthony / Nazi / Forgiveness article on my friend's blog at : http://the-dorian-mode.blogspot.com/2011/07/forgiveness-nazis-casey-anthony.html

    July 17, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Jellomundo

      Amazing how THIS post with the blog link made it...

      July 17, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  8. Carol

    She had her day in court. Not guilty. Although I believe she is guilty, she had her day in court and people need to understand killing her will not make any good. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Rocky in Belmont, NC

      No, but it would make me and ALOT of other people real happy.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • ebonynivory

      But, it sure would ease OUR minds!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  9. Crimsonsky

    Thank you Patrick Wanis to infuse us with your vast understanding of the human condition and frailty; however I for one chose not to forgive this monster, and if you want to know why; here it is: A little child was murdered at the hands of the one who gave her life that was supposed to love and nurture her. I'm keeping the fire burning for Caylee who has no voice and It's not a question of being consumed by hatred, it's a question of not forgetting this supreme injustice and grieving for the child. We are human beings and we are wired that way. Here you have it Doc!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Michael

      I hope you will never get in a situation, where the media against all evidence or in absence of evidence, will make you guilty of something you never did. Because even if an official United States court finds you not guilty, I will not help you.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Nitalynn

      You were there and witnessed this? Why did you not come forward and testify against her?!?!? She is free because of you!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • OldDawg

      Forgiveness is a remedy for ones own self and in no way condones or absolves the monster involved. Forgive but never forget because to forget would be a crime against humanity.

      There is little doubt that Casey did the unthinkable and has been set free but how free will be determined by the good people who share this world with her.Constant reminders of how loathsome and unwanted she is will be the only prison she has to look forward too these hourly reminders will weigh heavy on those who support and entertain her This is not revenge but a needed solution to the problem which Casey created..

      July 17, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  10. News Flash


    July 17, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  11. Ann

    OK. Let's forgive happy, smiling free Casey.
    She is a Fine example of what anyone can get away with. Hot dog!
    Next in line?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  12. Earl

    There is a time for forgiveness,also hate, revenge,resentment-how long – that's the question. People have a right to their feelings and enough is enough-let her go-if she is guilty as many believe she is then she'll get her justice it just may take longer than most want.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  13. Nitalynn

    You know I have never assumed she was guilty. Stupid maybe and a bad mother but she was young. Young women have to learn to be good mothers and that does not mean she was necessarily a murderer. I personally have wondered about her father and the supposed suicide attempt. That doesn't mean he is guilty either. What I do know is that there was failures at investigative and prosecutorial levels. Not all cases are cut and dried. Too many people think they have some sort of stake in this. Following a criminal case is one thing. Developing some sort of vicarious relationship with the characters in it through media reports aimed at sensationalism is an insult to the actual victims and quite frankly the sign of a warped personality!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Ed

      LOL. How anybody could believe Casey is innocent is beyond me. And this became a nationally recognized case for many reasons, but mostly because of her lies and playing out the part of a victim, while not caring about her daughter's disappearance and partying like a rock star. The Anthony family is disgusting and a national disgrace. People have every right to feel outraged when a killer is set free. And unfortunately, Casey will do something horrible again, she'll be back in trouble and will probably kill someone b/c she is nuts.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Vietnameravet

      Young Mothers have to learn not to lie and mislead when their child goes missing? Or do murderers lie and mislead?

      July 17, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  14. Michael

    I am not a very religious person. But I would be very surprised if anybody could cite any part of the bible where Jesus or God, or Allah or whatever other holyness is out there decided against all evidence, just inspired by no factual knowledge except the headlines of some journalists (not judges, journalists) , and against the decisions of a judge and a jury, decided someone is guilty just to forgive them afterwards.
    to me (as a not religious person) that sounds like the ultimate blasphemy.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Nitalynn

      I am religious and did not do any of those things. As a matter of fact I quite agree with you. Quite frankly I believe, supported by my Bible that even if she did do it and repents God will forgive her and she will go to Haven with her daughter.
      I don't think religion is really the problem here but obsessive personalities. I have followed the case and prayed for ALL involved even the murderer. Of course there is the possibility that the child died in an accident and someone panicked. My faith in God actually makes it easy to leave such matters in God's hands. In the end I truly believe the guilty will all pay for their crime in utter remorse if nothing else. I do believe in law but if the law fails I do not believe the guilty ever get away scott free.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • mnunns

      I could forgive if I thought she had any remorse for all the pain she has caused. She has none and never will.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  15. chuck

    Pray that Nancy Grace will stop being the "DEVILS DANCE PARTENER"

    July 17, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  16. Ronald Hussein Reagan

    Forget is better than forgive in this instance – Casey Anthony has nothing to do with me. The need to connect to something like this betokens a lack of connection to one's own life.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  17. David

    Someone who most likely killed their own child is back on the street with no acknowledgement, no apology, no penalty. The issue of forgiveness should be the last of your concerns.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • chuck

      Not Guilty Wake up David

      July 17, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Ed

      I agree. How do you forgive someone who never showed any remorse and took any responsibility for her actions? Casey Anthony is one of the most loathesome human beings in the world today.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Tim

      do you have some sort of knowledge that the prosecutors or jury didn't? You're angry and apparently, missed the entire point of this article.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • David

      Nice to see that some people still believe that the judicial system is infallable, even after the O.J trial and a long list of false imprisonments and even executions. Keep that thought.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  18. Grania

    If Patrick wants to forgive, well feel free, maybe he can help her out, find her a job whatever. As for me, well I do believe the Dixie Chicks said it best "I'm not ready to make nice". This self obsessed narcissist killed her child, whether by accident (got a bridge to sell you) or design, she got away with it and shows absolutely no remorse, in fact proudly cried that it was in fact HER that was the VICTIM. Forgive, not likely.

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

      Totally agree Grania. Forgive a murderer? Lets forgive O.J. while we're at it. This one will spend her entire life with what she did.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:24 am |

    Not to worry. This society has a big tendency to be here today, and gone tomorrow when it comes to issues. In a couple weeks, these names will be replaced by the next issue of the day.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  20. observer

    Why do so many people care about Casey Anthony? The amount of misplaced emotion that has been invested by the public is astounding.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:04 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.