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. Umbra

    I am sorry, I didn't believe her or defense team. In my eyes she is murderer walking on my streets – if I will by any chance meet her, I will not lend her help, hire her or even shake her hand. This is my civil position. Have a nice life, baby killer.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Ray

      Your value system is based on your own personal superiority and thus you have a large blind spot that prevents you from cleaning your mind out of the filth that Nancy Grace put into all of America. Nancy never tried Casy she just found her guilt and put out on national television things that became "evidence". sure but of murder? Not really not at ll. And in case you did not n=know Ms Grace is a mourning woman full of anger over the murder of her boyfriend. She should have dealt with this in therapy. she is deluded into thinking she is a crusader for something positive when in reality she just spews hatred. she reminds me of Glenn Beck

      July 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Sam Floret

      Oh, yeah. Nancy Grace says she did it and that she should hated and despised, therefore she should be,. If you want to worry about somebody, worry about the dozens and dozens of inncoent people who are convicted every year. 28 people in Florida alone have been freed from death row after being proven innocent, their lives destroyed. Eleven child murders are open in Orange County right now, but pretty little white girls that got the attention of Nancy Grace, so they don't count. Get a life!

      July 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • David

      You don't own the streets unless your saying your in that business of walking the streets. I would get help if I were you. I hope your not passing your lies off to the children you may or may not have. You set no good example by preaching hate.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Ray: I agree with you about Nancy Grace. I cannot stand her. She's all anger and hate and bitterness. Little rationality or clear thought. That she has a public voice is reprehensible.

      July 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  2. TripleA

    Forgiveness is just a way of copping out, sucking it up, taking a chill pill, and rationalizing it all away.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  3. steve

    I wish no physcial hurt on her.
    She will pay with the thought of what she did for the rest of her life.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Jury of Morons

      Doubtful as she has shown ZERO signs of remorse throughout.

      July 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • TheTruth

      Yes, she'll be punished for the rest of her life on Earth and then in Hell. They twisted the meaning of Jesus' word. Read the meaning of the passage. His punishers KNEW NOT who he was and the punishment God would inflict. Casey did.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Mom of 3

      There is no remorse and hence no thought. Her thoughts are only what impacts her directly.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • bluebird

      I hope she makes a ton of money.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  4. dtool

    When a person does not forgive, the only person affected is the person that does not forgive.
    To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • CJW

      Excellent description-have also heard unforgiveness is like taking a poison pill and hoping the other person will die.

      July 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Yer Nuts

      Yeah, well you can forgive a murderer & think you are so great. Caylee was never missing, she was in the trunk of her mother's car– why would she report her missing- she is a MURDERER & YOU GO KISS HER BUTT.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • Polaris431

      Forgiveness is only for those who repent of their heinous crimes. Even Jesus didn't forgive the one thief on the cross who mocked him. He only forgave the one who admitted his wrong.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Marty

      Your thinking is slipshod. The alternative to "forgiveness" is not "seething in revenge fantasies and hatred."

      You can let go and move on. That's like loving a person by myself. I don't need to be loved back to love.

      "Forgiveness" is transactional. It's something that happens between at least two people. I can no more forgive by myself than I can get married by myself.

      You have to think clearly – and I fully admit that Wanis encourages everyone to throw everything into the same stew.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  5. meme

    May she rot in hell. Casey Anthony killed her daughter and a jury of morons let her go free. I don't know how they sleep at night.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • David

      Your insight is a big joke. You didn't follow the case, you listened to others telling you what they thought. Your so easy to fool. I know for a fact that you are just following the crowed. George lied over and over, you can check out his statements to the FBI on line if you think your so smart. You can also stick that duct tape over the mouth and nose statement, the duct tape was stuck to a piece of hair mass, not the mouth or nose. That was someones elses Idea on how that tape was, that is not a fact. Their are no witnesses that said Casey was a bad mother to her child, not one. But you would have known that if you really watched the trial, instead you followed TOT NANCY GRACELESS and let her do your thinking for you.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Anafiel

      Well, David, I *did* watch the trial...every moment of it, and not once did I watch an episode of NG during the whole thing. The evidence, which you and the jury totally ignored, proved that Casey is guilty. I think maybe YOU didn't watch the trial. You're right, the duct tape was not stuck to her mouth when she was found...because her mouth was GONE, rotted off, decomposed, you idiot! Only her hair was left, hence the tape being stuck to it. Seems you have a problem with logical progressions...

      That dead girl was in Casey's trunk. Period. There were a whole line of professionals that attested to the smell. There was even science that backed up those professionals. Hell, there were even DOGS to back up that science. What more do you friggin need, a note from G-d himself?? Casey carried around that dead little girl in the trunk of her car until she could figure out what to do with her.

      The delay, the partying, the lying. She did it, it was a simple case really. The jury didn't want to take the responsibility to do the hard part though. They were selfish and lazy, and wanted to go home. That's why Casey walked, but not for lack of evidence.

      The system didn't fail, the jury failed the system!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • bluebird

      There is no use responding to someone who cannot see the forest fromt he trees. Here's the scoop, she may not have murdered her child. IT may have been an accident.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Andacar

      Bluebird, here's a hint for you: IT DOESN'T MATTER if it was an accident. My six year old comes up to me every day saying they broke something or did something bad "on accident," as if that absolves them of any culpability. But they are still responsible, regardless of whether they "meant to" or not. The whole point of parenthood is that you are responsible for a child. Whether the child dies by your hands or accidentally dies on your watch is irrelevant. It's still your responsibility. Casey and the people who support her are symptoms of the great American flight from responsibility that is turning this country into a bunch of passive whining losers.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • carol wagner

      She killed her beautiful little girl and I hope she rots in Hell

      July 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jacque

      I totally agree...this article is CNN's effort to diffuse the anger out there and set the stage to offer her an interview...Piers Morgan will make the offer - i am sure of it. Don't fall for it folks. There is a motive behind this doctor want-to-be (thereapist) pushing this theme. I will have to take note of his name - so as not to ever believe this guy about anything....i fell for his patients and glad I'm not one of them.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  6. fernace

    How can I "forgive" a person I don't know & has not caused me any personal harm? This is not at all the same scenario as the woman who chose to forgive the Nazis for the atrocities they had inflicted on her & her whole family! In that case I can see how it would be cathartic to forgive, as a process of healing. In this case people have opinions for specific reasons, just like in the OJ case. My opinion of that case is the same now as it was then, & I'm certain my opinion about the Anthony case will be the same 20 years from now! She got away with murder!!

    July 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • J

      Forgiveness in your context may entail the relinquishing of the inner hostility and aggression you feel toward this person that serves no positive purpose and may actually have deleterious consequences in some subtle ways.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Prometheus

      The 'woman' (Eva Kor) didn't know all Nazis just the ones she encountered in her personal experience. Yet she chose to forgive "-all Nazis" so I don't think your allegory supports the point you were trying to make that defends your viewpoint.

      July 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  7. RightTurnClyde

    ten out of ten no good so far .. all disappeared

    July 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  8. Patrick Wanis PhD

    We accuse Casey of being so evil and yet we respond to her with such evil thoughts, feelings and desires. A Holocaust survivor forgives the Nazis that poisoned her, Jesus asks God to forgive the people that murdered Him, so why do we focus on more evil thoughts and hatred? Why can't we learn from Eva Kors who found inner peace by forgiving?

    July 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Prometheus

      THIS. This is EXACTLY why I do not support the death penalty. It is hypocrasy to say that murder is the worst offense possible, and then condone 'state-sponsored murder' as the punishment for it.

      That's kind of like 'beating' your kid for fighting. It makes no logical sense, morally or otherwise. Call it what it is: REVENGE

      July 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • tinyprof

      We can learn from it. But many people don't want to, because they feel cheated by what they see as a form of weakness. It's a sad thing that forgiveness is depicted as weakness by so many people. The Gospels point out, again and again, that vengeance, judgment and mob anger are the real forms of weakness, because they deplete the spirit. Forgiveness, turning the other cheek, charitable giving–these are the things that the Gospels tell us are real strengths because they result in lasting spiritual rewards.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Neil Sam

      Because she has not necessarily gained conscious access to her underlying thoughts, emotions and feelings. By not doing so perpetuates mutual blindness and will in one unconscious transference or another re-create similar conditions for self-and-other abuse to continue under the pedagogy of "Thou Shall Not BE Aware."

      July 17, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Andy

      Jesus, being God, has the right to forgive people. You and I don't have the right to forgive Casey Anthony for murder. Government is duty bound by God to carry out justice and protect its citizens. You and your supporters are confusing murder (killing of the innocent) with justice (the death penalty for the guilty). The Word of God only authorizes three forms of punishment. Prison is not one of them. Furthermore, it is an abomination before God to aquit the guilty. That includes the lawers defending them.

      You need to understand this about forgiveness: Forgiveness or no forgiveness, the government has no right to show mercy.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  9. Robert


    July 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • frank

      Deep breaths! Deep breaths!

      July 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Peace2All


      So... what do you suggest everyone does about this...?


      July 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Prometheus

      There were tens of thousands of 'innocents' killed in Darfur. The world just stood by and acted like it wasn't happening. If you feel SO STRONGLY about a SINGLE innocent child dying, then put your outrage to good use by DOING SOMETHING when you see something like Darfur going on. "In for a penny...in for a pound."

      July 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  10. RightTurnClyde

    They do not like my posts again .. I am contrary..

    July 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey there -Clyde... No... again, it's not that 'they' don't like your posts. Remember it's the 'auto-filter' program. Look for the offending word or word-fragment/s.



      July 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  11. Daniel

    The doctrine of forgiveness is predicated upon contrition (that is, remorse for one's actions) and repentance (that is, a change of behavior in light of that remorse in effort to atone). I have seen no contrition and no repentance. In any event, it is not for me to forgive Anthony. Her transgressions were not against me. That is a matter for her family, for her daughter, and for God.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • jdoe

      Wrong. True forgiveness does not depend on the other person doing anything.

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

      Good point, Daniel. Personally I find it very hard to forgive things like murder. I can understand the need to forgive small transgressions but when it comes to murder I really personally feel that if it is beyond a doubt, the person should be put to death in a humane manner (although it would be tempting to inflict pain on some of the animals out there who commit disgusting, unbelievable crimes). I don't think any of us have the right to forgive Casey – the only person who has the right is little Caylee. So all of you people out there who want to smugly forgive murderers then go ahead if it makes you feel better. I don't think you're better than the rest of us who believe in punishment and even possible death as retribution. As for Casey, I have no idea if she's guilty or not since I didn't follow the court case. I think swift, punishment and a quick death sentence would be a better deterrent than sticking people on death row for years. However, I think murderers should only be given the death penalty if it is beyond a reasonable doubt when there is so much physical evidence that it's impossible to ignore. If God wants to forgive these murderers or even a priest before they are executed, then fine but they still have forfeited their right to food, air and water. Think how many real innocents we could save in the world, little children who die of malnutrition and other preventable diseases because we would rather keep hundreds or even thousands of sickos in prison. Now that's a crime.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  12. MP

    "Forgiveness" has nothing to do with religion. If you don't enjoy being a victim, you forgive people. If you do, you don't.

    What's the difference between Hell and the Holocaust, except that God tortures Jews for eternity, instead of gassing them to end their misery?

    July 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Monica Key

    Ummmm? Dr Wanis....
    Whattacrock of uknowhat.
    It is not up to us to forgive her, especially not when the verdict was based on a questionable decision of 12 morons.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • meme

      12 morons who didn't bother to consider the evidence and came to a verdict way too quickly. All the ones who spoke out talked about how they didn't want her to get the death penalty, well they could have convicted and NOT given her the death penalty. Did they consider that?

      July 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  14. frank

    ^tallulah13 fan club member

    July 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  15. frank

    Cue the hollering village-folk with their torches, pitchforks, and chromosomal abnormalities.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  16. tallulah13

    The only person who needs to forgive Casey Anthony is dead and can't speak for herself. Casey Anthony has done nothing personally to the rest of us, so we don't really have anything to forgive her for.

    We can hate her, however, and wish for justice. Hate isn't the healthiest emotion, either, so perhaps the best we can do is ignore articles and shows about her. Don't reward her actions with attention. Don't reward her financially by purchasing the book that she will inevitably write to tell "her side of the story." Let the public forget her and let the people around her be wary.

    Personally, this is the last I have to say on the topic. Unless she is somehow brought to justice, Casey Anthony no longer exists as far as I'm concerned.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  17. Atldixie

    As a Christian, I am to proclaim as loudly as I can that the death of this child is a violation of the loving will of God. That requires judgment.

    As a mother, I am to teach my children such behavior is unacceptable. That requires judgment.

    As a citizen, I am to do my part to make sure it never happens again. That requires judgment.

    I don't have a choice. I don't have the convenience of saying "that's not my job" or "that's above my pay grade." I am to call sin "sin." I am to judge between right and wrong. If I don't I am guilty by implication. Remember Peter's accusation on the day of Pentecost: "This Jesus whom you handed over to be crucified (my paraphrase)." Those people in the crowd didn't bind Jesus. They didn't beat Jesus. They didn't crucify Jesus. They stood by and did nothing to stop it. And, they were found guilty by silent association.

    "Judge not lest you be judged?" Please. It doesn't apply and it doesn't fly. I am angry. I am grieved. I am morally outraged. As a Christian, I'm supposed to be.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • J.W

      It is not very Christian to be angry.

      July 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Mirabella

      I am not a Christian, but I wholeheartedly AGREE with your sentiment. You are spot on.

      July 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • News Flash ....

      Please. It doesn't apply and it doesn't fly. I am angry. I am grieved. I am morally outraged.
      Sorry. That doesn't cut it here. First we don't care how you feel, and second you have to tell us WHY it doesn't apply or fly.

      July 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Haime52

      You do NOT know that none there present at Peter's sermon where involved in Christ's death. Peter did not call for vengeance, for "... vengeance is mine saith the Lord..." Was she guilty? I don't know, I didn't set in on the case, but the prosecution must not have presented a very good case. Blame them. It is not for any of us to judge her because, while there are serious questions abounding concerning her conduct, we just don't KNOW, what really happened. Only God knows and He will take care of it as HE sees fit. I, for one, am glad I don't have to judge, because I am merely human and,a s such, prone to grave errors, prejudging, lapses in judgement, etc. I don't know about anyone else, but I have yet to met that person who is "without sin".

      July 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: "As a Christian, I am to proclaim as loudly as I can that the death of this child is a violation of the loving will of God."

      Isn't it just a tremendous tragedy and violation in general, regardless of whether or not one is a christian...?

      If there is a god, does he/she/it 'need you' to proclaim 'anything' in the first place...? And... secondly and most specifically something so 'obvious'...?

      Sincerely curious...



      July 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Prometheus

      I agree! I am a 'Christian' too. "Judge not lest ye be judged...?" Bah, I also don't agree with that thing that says you "shall not covet your neighbour’s wife"...because she is HAWT! I think she's ripe for plucking 'cause she flirts when he isn't around.


      July 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • PeterG

      I really wish religion would disappear from the face of the earth.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Bannister


      That's just a cynical attempt on your part to paint Christians as hypocrites.

      Christians are humans. Anger is a human emotion. Therefore, Christians can be angry. And no, the Bible does not say people can never be angry.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  18. Mj

    So, should we just let all criminals go free and forgive them? I am a Christian and I believe in forgiveness, but it is a process. Also, there are consequences for ones actions regardless of forgiveness. God forgives but He doesn't always stop the consequences. The problem in this case is that Casey is walking and going to profit as well. Forgiveness will happen when she repents and tells the truth or pays for her destruction.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Haime52

      Do we need "cities of refuge" for people like Casey? She was found not guilty, what more do you want? The judge to vacate the verdict and find her guilty because so many people can't seem to come to terms with the jury's verdict. Pilate did that, did he not? Was justice served, then. NO, she is no Jesus, not by a very, very long stretch! But a verdict that is based on what is the popular opinion is not a just verdict. The majority is usually wrong!
      Maybe you think we ought to televise all the murder cases and let the people at home vote like they do on American Idol, would that be justice?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: "Forgiveness will happen when she repents and tells the truth or (pays for her destruction)."

      What exactly does it mean to you for her to "pay for her destruction"...?


      July 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  19. News Flash ....

    " Does Casey Anthony’s case cry out for forgiveness, even if the court found her not guilty of murder?"
    What ? Did he mean to say "Anthony's case cry out for JUSTICE, even if the court .....' ?
    VERY poorly written article.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  20. Disciple Mikey

    @ Cindy

    I definitely agree with you. Jesus never told us that we should forgive a person based on repentance. We don't have the ability to read a persons heart to discern true repentance as God does. On the other hand God can. With that being said, he is the only one who knows the truth about what happened and has the ability to know if she's truly sorry, and therefore in a position to judge her. We let our human tendencies dictate our feelings toward someone, which is abso;utely understandable. But for those who believe in God, we understand that even if she was excecuted there are things much worse than death and we shouldnt be overly concerned about what God will's for her.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Andy

      @Disciple Mikey
      Check out Luke 17:3 my friend. You disagree with Luke. Those are red letters.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
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