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. IfManisFive

    Mr. Wanis –

    Although your article is logical and certainly empirical, it's flawed in this instance. You're asking the PUBLIC to forgive a crime that was so egregious – any crime against a child is most heinous – and one for which Casey Anthony was absolutely complicit in committing, if not 100% personally responsible. The former is not conjecture; the latter, an unfortunate uncertainty that will most likely never be answered.

    Forgiveness is an appropriate – and healthy – action for those who have been personally wronged and those close to the victim(s). In your example, Eva/Miriam Kor (not to mention the 6+ million Jewish people who died during the Holocaust) had the most horrible crimes committed against them. In the case of those who survived the Holocaust as well as family/loved ones and friends of anyone who spent time in a concentration camp, forgiveness is the appropriate response in order to heal and move on.

    The same holds true for Ms. Anthony’s family and friends as well as anyone who met/interacted with Caylee. They must eventually forgive Casey in order to heal and find peace.

    However, the same should not be expected of the general public. The future of my emotional health (I do not personally know Ms. Anthony nor had I ever met Caylee) and inner peace is not hinged on forgiving Ms. Anthony. My desire to see Ms. Anthony pay for her complicity and/or crime is not one based on anger and revenge, but rather on justice, retribution, and recompense.

    Casey Anthony's family, loved ones, and friends will need to forgive her to eventually find inner peace. But the general public or anyone who has not personally been involved with her need not do so. And so it is that Casey Anthony should meet the same fate as Caylee. It is what is just.

    Some will read this and say my desire for vigilante justice is base and barbaric. But crimes committed against children are unequivocally inexcusable. May God (or the God of her choice) have mercy on Ms. Anthony’s soul. But in the temporal world, may justice must be served swiftly and soon.

    Forgiveness can happen after the fact.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Pablo

      People should forgive her. But more importantly, the forgiver needs to be wise, see how she has lied and never trust her completely if they ever come in contact with her.
      There are many like her in the world and that is the way of things. Forgiveness is important, but not forgetfulness or others will be wronged by her. The key is to forgive but never forget.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • chris

      I completely disagree. It's especially imporant that the public forgive because the general sentiment being expressed is completely unhealthy and illustrates a bitterness and lust for revenge that can easily turn violent. It's unhealthy and in many ways its completely sick. Perhaps just as sick as the original crime but that doesn't change the fact that it is sick and unwarranted.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Scott

    There is a critical distinction between the author's example of the Nazi doctor who was forgiven, and Casey Anthony. Prior to being forgiven by his victim, the Nazi doctor stated a CONFESSION OF GUILT AND APOLOGIZED. Only then, did the victim state forgiveness. I will wait to hear Casey Anthony's confession of guilt and apology before I consider it worthy of a statement of forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  3. James

    Here's one reason for forgiveness......99.9% of the people so upset over the verdict had no idea who Caylee or Casey were before the verdict. The only reason they know now is because they sat glued to Nancy Grace every night. Even now with the trial over Grace and her network continue to milk ratings out of the idiots who have nothing to do with this trial but can't be smart enough just to move on.

    Other reason to move, all these protesters have friends, families,jobs,etc.......they should give the effort to them not to some people they don't know and never will meet.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  4. Michael Jardine

    I must, respectfully, disagree with you, Shmo. From the perspective you present, it appears that you think that Forgiveness is about what happens with the perpetrator. Forgiveness is not about THEM, Schmo. It is about YOU. Forgiveness allows you to move past the pain, stop being the victim, and, in this case, after the not guilty verdict, will allow everyone to let Casey Anthony go away.

    I believe that True Forgiveness comes to those who don't deserve it. That is the very best meaning of Forgiveness; you don't deserve it, but you are going to get it anyway. If we only forgive those who "deserve" it, then we are sliding down a slippert slope from which we can't stop. Who then, deserves it? You for your sins? Me for mine? Who decides? Will it be you, me or a jury of our peers? God? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Who? I we only forgave those that we deemed "worthy" or "deserving" of Forgiveness, it would lose its more True and Deeper meaning. Forgiveness should not and cannot be reserved solely for those we like.

    If we start to believe from the very beginning that we are all God's creatures (and, with some, His Madmen) and each of us, is worthy of Forgiveness, gone is this notion of who is deserving of Forgiveness of whatever Sin.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  5. John


    If after being presented with all of the facts: She didn't look for her daughter, didn't report her missing for 31 days, went out and partied, didn't tell her closest friends anything about her daughter being missing and lied to the police on several occasions....if after all THAT you believe that our justice system worked here, then YOU are the ignorant one.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  6. razzi

    She is not innocent...the victim is Caylee. Forgiveness? As someone in the counseling field, I cannot think of even one Dr. that would find it in themselves to forgive if it was personal. Not one. The jury has set a new precedent for murder and they should be ashamed of their selves.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  7. Mel

    I can not believe how cruel people are in their replies. This isn't even about Casey Anthony and what she has done, it is about challenging ourselves, to be better people, to rise above, to let go, to put less negativity out there into the world. Forgiveness is freedom from actions committed by others and overwhich we have no control, but when you forgive, you take that control back and release all of the anger you are holding, anger that is just wasting time and energy in your life. Do I think she did it, yes. That does not mean I should hold on to useless anger and continue to put negativity out. By forgiving, you benefit yourself and those around you. It sounds like a lot of folks on here have some serious anger they are clinging to, drop the vitriolic outbursts and free yourselves.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  8. materialman

    "forgive" her and just move on. Like it never happened? Old news I guess, time to move on to the next weird tragedy in America today. My great grandmother used to say, "you reap what you sow". I am sure hoping that comes to pass for Casey Anthony.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  9. pjacobs

    Only Caylee can forgive her. The public needs to drop it. Better a thousand guilty go free, than 1 innocent be sent to jail . Casey has to live with the truth and in the end face her maker..........

    July 17, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Sad

      It is sad when American's today feel they have to tunnel their anger and frustration at a particular person who has been brought into the spot light by the media. There are so many more areas this misplaced rage and anger could be spent to actually help people who are in need before things get to the extent we have seen here. Wheather Casey had anything to do with Caylee's death will NEVER be truly known, however God knows the events of that day and all involved will be judged according to his or her acts just as everyone else in the world will be judged based on his or her actions over the course of a lifetime.
      Whomever harmed this precious child of God will have to atone for these actions when face to face with God... The punishment that will be dulled out at that time will be swift, just, and thank the Lord above not TELEVISED!!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  10. FORGIVE????


    July 17, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  11. Cedar rapids

    'We have all wronged and we are all imperfect. Of course, murder is not the same as the wrongs that most of us commit.'
    Exactly, so stop trying to compare any 'wrongs' we may have done to murder or disposing of a body.

    'The next time you commit a wrongdoing, won’t you be saying “Please forgive me?”
    Tell you what, if I ever committ a murder or dispose of a body and not report the death of my child for 30 days then come ask me if I did or not, until then there is no comparison.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Sad

      There actually is a comparison.. Nowhere in the bible does it say this sin is worse or more condemable than that sin.. Sin is Sin in the eyes of GOD whether it be stealing, lying, murder, adultery, etc. The worldly views have put the severity to the crimes not GOD! He will swiftly punish the sinner for sinning not according to which sin he or she commited but that a sin was commited, forgiveness was not asked for and life changes not being made through Christ.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      You stick with your god, I will stick with reality and common sense.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  12. Vietnameravet

    There is a difference between forgiving and having your head up your ass!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  13. Stephen

    While people can forgive its impossible for them to forget and thus its really hard to forget something that cruel to a little girl. They may just shun her and avoid her completely. I know I would. This is why God is only capable of agape (meaning unconditional) love. Where he can forgive and never hold against the person. Life will be hard for her and the truth will come out about what really happened just like O.J. Simpson eventually did come out and say that he did kill his wife and friend on the Winfrey show.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  14. Danial

    The only opnion I have on this case is that the prosecution did not make a airtight case against Casey. They had over 3 years to prove beyond a doubt that she killed her child and did not meet that criteria. The jury got it right and people need to accept it. I think one of the reasons the public is so much against the verdict is due to Nancy Grace's overkill on the case. That woman had her convicted before she was even arrested. I do not like the way Nancy Grace convicts almost everyone she does a story on.
    There are only 3 people that know what really happened to Caylee. Caylee, Casey, and God. Let it go people, judgement day will come for this in due time.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Crimsonsky

      Is your name Denial? The prosecution did an excellent job and don't cast the blame on them, also don't cast the blame on Nancy Grace; those are not the people at fault, and not the people on trial for murdering and innocent child. The trial went on for weeks, the jury deliberated such a short time that it screams of laziness and total incompetency. Just like OJ, this sociopath that shows no grief or remorse; that alone should sounds off the alarm; hopefully just like OJ she will one day go to jail. Justice then will be served. Thanks VietnameraVet; you rock!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  15. Vietnameravet

    Lets see I am supposed to forgive a woman who in my opinion murdered he child by putting duct tape over her mouth and then carried her around in her trunk wrapped in a blanket stuffed into a garbage bag and then thrown into a dump as she partied and enjoyed life. She then lied and misled all those who were buying her story of kidnapping and abduction. Finally when those stories could no longer be maintained she switched to a new set of lies and managed to convince a dumb jury that she was not guilty and in the process smeared her father in a horrible way all without a shred of evidence.
    How she was convicted of lying but she now appeals the very lies she used to support her fake case.
    She has shown no remorse..never asked to be forgiven and, in fact.stands to make millions off this disgusting story.

    Yet we are supposed to forgive her!! Come out of the clouds!!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  16. Lilybeth

    Forgiveness? Well that's a personal feeling and frankly Casey Anthony is not a family member to anyone other then her family. I don’t agree what the verdict turned out to be . But judgement wont come from anyone but God as far as I’m concerned. But I understand the anger from some of the public they feel there is no justice. Over time I think they will just move on with someone or something else rather then focus on her. After all focusing on her that much just gives her power , power to possibly get a book out there , a deal for tv whatever the case maybe. Focus on your children your own family and your circle of friends. That's what I call healthy focus

    July 17, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  17. Bill W

    The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less. ~Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, 1968

    July 17, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  18. Mike

    She is innocent.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Sheri

      A jury said she was "Not Guilty" but she is far from innocent!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • synthiotics

      Really? Where was all this forgiveness when OJ was acquitted of murder charges? Don't get me wrong, I think he was guilty as well, but the double standard here just cannot be ignored. Just goes to show race as well as gender are qualifying factors when it comes to wrongdoing.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Keith

      Were you there for the whole trial, Sheri? The jurors decided this was a horrible pool tragedy a dysfunctional family tried to hide–nothing more and nothing less. Please have faith in the honesty and integrity of neighbors who serve on juries or we're destined to a life before the founding of our great nation when kings or 'officials' determined our guilt or innocence.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Debra

      I saw the entire trial. She was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The mistake the prosecutor made was in not telling a story at the end in closing statements that explained exactly how she could have done it. Supposition though it may have been, it would have allowed the jurors (a group of people who did not possess the creative ability to imagine possible scenarios on their own) to vote "Guilty".

      To believe the child drowned in the family pool is to believe one more lie from the mouth of the child killer. What we all know for sure is that Casey Anthony is a liar. The only "evidence" of a drowning is the word of a convicted liar. In other words, no evidence at all.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  19. Dom

    Thank goodness its up to the court to determine whether someone is guilty, not many of the idiots on here.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • sfj

      yeah just 12 chosen idiots.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  20. Derek

    Want to get all religious? How 'bout and eye-for-an-eye?

    I wish nothing but pain and suffering for Casey Anthony. And the sooner she experiences it, the better.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Marie

      "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi

      July 17, 2011 at 10:13 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.