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. CHAD

    As I read everyones comments, I realize that we all have made a very important lesson. To forgive and forget is ones chosen right. To do harm upon another is an act of the same intolerant behavior that Casey demonstrated by allegedly killing her own daughter. I know that she will be burdened by the memories of this situation. May god have mercy on her soul. God bless

    July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  2. JusticeDelayed

    I like the author's comparison of Casey Anthony to a Nazi !!!
    And when he talks about holocaust survivors forgiving their captors, this doesn't mean that the Nazis that ran the death camps are not burning in hell right now.
    I want to send Casey Anthony a big box of sunscreen, SPF 1 million.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • forget it

      Being a non-Christian, I would have to disagree with you on the hell thing. This girl appears to have no conscience. But, if she did have one, that would be a true hell. Not the fire and brimstone kind that Christians like to speak of.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  3. m.t.


    July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • dootise

      yOU THEN...are an advocate of sharia law..another clue...there is no heaven, no hell, no fire, no brimstone.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • forget it

      I agree wholeheartedly, dootise.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  4. forget it

    I believe she is guilty but to rant on and on about her acquittal will not bring sweet Caylee back. As far as forgiveness, she didn't do anything to me, the wrongness lies with her little girl. Retaliation and revenge will not bring Caylee back but will only dishonor little Caylee. I have never been a fan of revenge. Let the story go already and let little Caylee rest in peace, please.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  5. Patricia

    She was acquitted on all charges (except the ones about lying to the police) by a jury of her peers. Get over it people. This country isn't based on mob rule and mentality. Pretty much exactly why we have a trial by jury...

    Not to mention, what do we all know about the facts of the case other than what the sensationalist media has told us? She was found innocent, get over it, it's done.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • forget it

      I agree, Patricia.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • dootise

      you are utterly right except about one thing. She wasn't found innocent.. She..like all criminal defendants in this country...was PRESUMED INNOCENT... the prosecution had no direct evidence that the child was intentionally harmed..couldn't prove she was murdered..much less cause of death..etc. She was found not guilty.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  6. JohnCOS

    Folks, this is a country called the United Sates of America, where if a jury finds you not guilty then you are not guilty. So, GET OVER IT. Just like with OJ. Sorry folks but that is the way it is, if you want somebody found guilty no matter what then move to Cuba, Russia, Iran, N. Korea or any other country like that.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • TXmom

      She is very guilty of the crime. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough evidence to prove "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that she did it.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • forget it

      Yes, sometimes we do not agree with a verdict but it's something we all have to live with.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  7. sneakypete

    Muderers being forgiven is how this lady and others can connive a process by which they murder and get away with it. Her daughter got in the way of allowing this spoiled, immature piece of crap, to continue to live the life of a teenager with no responsibilities for others. Her daughter didn't die from something she caught off the toilet seat. She was murdered and this lady stalled and stymied the investigation and discovering the remains until the evidence was eaten up by nature. Psychyatrists and psychologist finding ways to cleanse society only encourages individuals to continue to murder the innocent. People who hate this woman show more respect for the living innocents than all the people who would forgive her.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • JD

      Hate does nothing but destroy the person who is full of hatred.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • forget it

      @ JD. Unfortunately, some people love to hate.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • dootise

      you aren't the brightest bulb in the package..just because a young single mother likes to party..does not make her a murderess...There is no evidence that anyone was intentionally killed.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  8. DIANA


    July 17, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • dootise

      nonsense..all you thumpers who are just soooo sure of what happened and are soooo sure that some big daddy in the clouds will now torture casey anthony....are just full of yourselves.. Perhaps if you moved to a country with SHARIA law you would be much more comfortable. You want to convict someone in a capital case withouth any DIRECT EVIDENCE. you want to throw out the '"American justice system's presumption of INNOCENCE for all defendants..just because some tabloid and the modern sleazy,lazy mainstream media is playing you for a big laugh.. Your great god that you are sure will punish Ms. Anthony for something you are just soo suuuuuure she did..that same great imaginary god who had a hand..all knowing and all powerful in the death of the child..think of it..spend your time taking care of your own spawn.not acting as vigilante executioners..

      July 17, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • forget it

      I'm not a Christian, but I agree that forgiveness is always the answer but only if wrongness is done unto you. Forgiveness frees oneself from the clutches of the wrongdoer. The one who wronged no longer possesses the power. This is the only reason I forgive.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • dootise

      you have put someone in god's hands? really? call the media trucks...it's a miracle..Do you also believe in the tooth fairy, father time,andmother nature?

      July 17, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  9. TXmom

    I'll see your forgiveness for the sake of letting go and moving on. However the bigger issue is her Repentance. We would probably be more willing to forgive as a collective people, if she confessed and were truly repentant.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Don

      You presume that she murdered her child; you have no evidence of that.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • dootise

      repent this! has it ever crossed your one note samba brain....that the child's death was accidental?

      July 17, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • dootise

      even if she didn't do it..that would soothe tx mom's crooked little heart..cuz she's a christian!!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  10. Tiger Wuuds


    July 17, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  11. Patrish

    Your child is missing for 30 days and you don't report it? That is child neglect at the least. That jury could have found her guilty of that a the least. I usually don't waste my time with disliking someone I don't even know, but her her case I will make an exception! I want to see someone wipe that smirk off her face. What comes around goes around... so I figure justice with get it's reward in time. She will have a hellish life!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • dootise

      here's the problem for you...it isn't against the law to not report it..so you can't make a law apply to a situation where there was no such law. she was convicted of four counts of lying to authorities..and for that she did nearly four years in prison..Why do you like Sharia law so much?

      July 17, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  12. Jared Berel

    The %%$##** B***** got away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even charged wiyh child endangerment....... I HOPE FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE SHE HAS TO LOOK OVER HER SHOLDER EVERY MINUTE OF HER LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Don

      Look at all the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  13. nell

    this is nonsense, in this case we should just forgive every criminal and terrorist and let them continue killing innocent people. there is a difference between forgiving someone and punishing those who committed a crime. Punishment is not so much for changing the past, but to show that we as society do not tolerate certain behaviors. Those who are dead cannot speak for themselves, it is the responsibility of those who survive to give them justice and dignity by prosecuting those who are responsible for their death.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Patrish

      well said!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • dootise

      idiotic..I think you should move to saudi arabia..where they behead people without evidence..you'd be so smug!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  14. David

    Wow, the concentration camp tangent has nothing to do with this story. For a second, I was like was i reading a different article.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Patrick Wanis PhD

      Eva Kor chose to forgive the Nazis and now she promotes forgiveness. She also stated that it helped her to forgive them. She stopped filling her heart with hatred and revenge and now she teaches people to do the same thing, Her message applies to all of us.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • News Flash

      So she holds the Nazis blameless ? I don't buy it. She tells herself that as a coping mechanism.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  15. teresa, ohio

    "if ye forgive not others, how can the Lord forgive you?" hmmmm

    July 17, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  16. Anthony in Maryland

    Let it go America! If you do not believe in our justice system and the jury's decision regarding this woman then stop all trials and lets be a country with no laws and we can live in anarchy. This story is over and it is time for those to love your children and be there for them and move on!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • David Br

      When a system fails it should be changed.
      Nothing is scared. The people make the law not vice versa.
      Why is the jury system sacred in America?
      Have a public debate with law makers involved to find a better system.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Gloria

      Please let it go CNN. There are really a lot of things going on in this country and This anthony thing is not the focus of all of us. Track some more interesting things. I miss Walter Cronkit era. Reporters went after the news. And by the way if companies are like people when it comes to bailout why not when it comes to taxes. Spread the jobs around. cities are not the only places America needs business, the farmers and outskirts of cities need real Chambers of Commerce. City governments anser to comapnies who anser to investor, who already have money. More Credit Unions. Grocers are spening on Ads and not on quality. The south is segregated again. Visit krogers on Roosevelt in Little Rock, Arkansas – Sem\nd Freedom Shoppers, Help! It is ugly, old fashioned and mostly Black/African American/low-income focused, even sells old product as Managers specials. Compare it to those stores in the wealthier west Little Rock, Arkansas area. We need Hope. Those people who left with clinto did not return to south east Little Rock, AR. We are not a part of this city

      July 17, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  17. univeralsunset


    July 17, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  18. April

    Forgive her for killing an innocent child although she has no remorse. Forgive the court system for obviously failing when she is guilty as sin. What is wrong with you?
    EVERYONE knows she did this. And if she DID (and we all know she did) and our COURT system FAILED to punish her for it, it doesnt mean everything is OK. It means the system is obviously FLAWED. A woman that kills her child and goes and parties, one that could car less, and is a pathological liar, has no business walking among the rest of us. Caylee has her face TAPED and was killed by this selfish psycho. No one should forgive THAT. How can you forgive someone when they feel no remorse?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • George

      You may know she did it, but the jury didn't think so and that is what counts. If you want somebody found guilty no matter what then move to Cuba, Russia, Iran, China or any other similar country, otherwise GET OVER IT and get off your high, I know better than the jury, horse.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Don

      I don't know that she did. Ergo, you're wrong.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Ben

      April - no one but Ms. Anthony "knows" if she killed her daughter. That you believe you "know" simply indicates that you've been manipulated by the media firestorm surrounding this case into believing that to be true. A jury agreed to by the prosecutors listened to every piece of admissible evidence and concluded that the evidence proving the murder charges was insufficient. She was determined to be not guilty.

      I would suggest you examine your own self and why you've allowed yourself to be manipulated into such a state of hate that you cannot accept the jury's decision. The problem is not with Ms. Anthony. The problem is with you and others like you, who have been manipulated such that you believe you "know" what you do not and cannot know.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  19. Eric

    Thats the problem with the justice system these days too many Lawyers & psychoanalysts.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  20. taxed

    She didn't do anything to me so I can't forgive her. CayLee has to forgive her. Oh, CayLee can't because she is dead.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • teresa, ohio

      I agree. she doesnt need my forgiveness, she did nothing to me. the courts say she did nothing but lie.
      who amongst us hasnt lied? so for lying, such a little thing, yes, she can be forgiven.

      I like the lower neckline in the shirt she is wearing as she leaves jail. ; ) so different from what she wore in court, yes?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:48 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.