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

« Previous entry
soundoff (2,071 Responses)
  1. Grace Kolman

    Obviously this woman was forgiven by American Justice, but to forgive and forget her means that commit a henious crime is OK in this society.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • SarahTonin

      Grace, you comment is really stupid. She was not forgiven, she wasn't convicted because there was not enough evidence. I suppose that you are a good Christian and your comment typical of those whose creed states that you should not judge other people. Good Christian you are, obviously!

      July 17, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  2. doc workday

    yes let's forgive her. forgive. let's forget about justice for Caylee, which is still hanging out there in the air?? anyone remember Caylee? the two year old with duct tape on her face, rotting body in the trunk of mommy's car, dumped in mommy's pet cemetery in the swamp? yes gods and goddesses, please, as a parent, help me come to terms with how this baby was murdered, and that her mommy gets a life of freedom even though Caylee will never get that. thank you Casey, for teaching us what true forgiveness is. don't go near another child or may god strike you down. there. forgiven.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • SarahTonin

      Doc .. you should post when you are drunk. It makes you look real stupid!

      July 17, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Perryboy

      @ Sarah Tonin! Go jump off a bridge.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Mark

    I love the fact that supposedly we are supposed to forgive this one because she got off with it and not others that are in jail. The only reason why this case is the way it is is because the prosecution did a poor job, and the jury was crap. We can forgive, but then again she never did anything agaist us as a nation. She did do something against a young girl that didn't have a chance to live or grow up. We don't know exactly what that was, but she was involved somehow.

    Unfortunately because our justice system is flawed we will never know.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • phthia

      WHO doesn't report a child missing for 31 days.....and still DIDN'T ...her mom did.....that in and of it's self is evidence! FORGIVENESS IS OVER-RATED! And that's just a line in a song....... 🙂 It is better to continue outrage at this injustice...not bitterness just outrage.....very different concepts.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  4. nf

    i hope died casey anthony (:

    July 17, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  5. Joe

    This is what happens when we let the news folks put on a trial! The news people (paper/TV/radio) are on their way to running the free world as we used to know it! This is just another example of the control they have! Guilty or innocence we will never really know because there is money to be made out of the tragic mess and the talking heads have done it again! 40 years ago you would not have heard about this woman and the crap in her life! If she had been convicted the news people would have been trying to get her off, just so they could make money from that side of the mess!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Cmax

      Forget the "talking heads" and just watch the videotapes from jail and court. There is no way that, if the jurors were allowed to see those tapes of the real Casey Anthony, they would have given her less than manslaughter. It is too easy to blame the media. If it were not for them you would not have the evidence to look at and judge for yourself

      July 17, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  6. helenecha

    Let's confront the fact. After all, Casey could be helped to take care of herself in the wake of her daughter's death.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  7. Jan

    I am more compelled to forgive the jury for their miscarriage of justice. Casey's family and the community in which she lives and will live have more at stake in forgiving her. Her attorneys need forgiveness too–not for defending her–but for the complete fabrications of crimes attributed to her parents.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • phthia

      I couldn't agree more.....well said!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  8. Michele

    A thinking person understands the personal value of forgiveness and how bitterness can turn on one's own self but I also believe what we are seeing is a moral reaction to a society that many of us view as becoming increasingly violent, immoral and lacking in personal responsibility. Everyday we are bombarded with news stories that make us more disturbed by what is out there. Personally, I know of many individuals who have committed crimes and lied about their former employers to receive benefits. Some how they are able to justify their actions as survival. They also expect to be "forgiven" but they themselves do not change. After a while, one feels like a chump if you are the one doing all the "forgiving" and others continue to take.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  9. katahdin

    The Anthony family is not my family. Their personal tragedy is not my tragedy. Casey Anthony did not do anything to me. I'm not required to forgive her because she has not harmed me. Caylee was not my child nor is she the child of anyone commenting on this board. I guess I don't understand the process by which people somehow make a tragedy that has nothing to do with them, about them.
    It seems to me that a lot of people are simply indulging in the pleasures of self-righteousness. Their concern is not for the dead child. They are simply trying to feel something and using the tragedy of a family they don't know and never will to do so.
    I'd say "get a life" but it would be redundant.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Ed

      It was a criminal trial, and it is the public's business. "Get a Life" would apply to all of us who comment on this board including you.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Susan

      You are wise. People whose lives have empty direct their rage..its ugly, puzzling and strange

      July 17, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  10. LindaD

    I can just see it...in order for this woman to feel forgiven and "liberated" after her legal battles she will do a Playboy centrefold, a tell-all interview, a book and who knows what else in order to make money from her noteriety!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  11. she isakillerrr

    Just because the jury failed doesn't change the fact she is a killer.Watch the jurors interview.he said he believes he now made a mistake.the other one said he thinks she drowned.NO evidence of it.The jurey failed and she walked.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • SarahTonin

      The jury didn't fail, the prosecutor and the police did! It's called not enough evidence to convict!

      July 17, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Perryboy

      @ Sarah Tonin! Im sure you didn't think the same about OJ. Or did you?

      July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Richard

    "father forgive them for they know not what they do"............well.............those folks were just doing what the "omnipotent god" wanted them to do so what exactly would he be "forgiving" them for? I guess in the case of Casey it was "his" will that she went free so she could do some more "GREAT STUFF" for god.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  13. Tony

    Before Mr. Wanis started cluttering cyberspace with nonsensical garbage, I think he should've check the facts. In the first place, the Justice system in this country has never been about "preventing" criminal acts. Second, I don't think anyone is stupid enough to think that anger can "bring back Caylee" and no one has been stupid enough to make a connection between the two...except for the author of this article. If people are angry, maybe it's because they suspect THE SYSTEM FAILED. The purpose of government–through the justice system–is supposed to protect its citizens. How can this be accomplished if criminals are allowed to walk free? What message does this send to the next "mother" who doesn't want the responsibility of children? Prison is not for rehabilitation, or even punishment, since many of the recent sentences rarely fit the crime. At best, all we can expect from prison (or any type of punishment) is that it be a deterrent: (1) it should deter others from a similar crime by setting an example of intolerance, and (2) if a criminal is in jail they cannot commit another crime.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  14. Me

    Screw this forgiveness, nonsense. This woman got away with murdering a 2-year old child based on a technicality. Had the body of her child been found a lot sooner than it had, the Prosecution would have had all the evidence it needed to put her away for life (or give her the Death penalty). She got lucky, very lucky.

    I will NEVER forgive her.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  15. nano

    I so agree with ifmanisfive.this has nothing to do with forgiving but with justice.Justice was not served here.I hope the american people will keep their promise and boycot anything this woman (casey anthony) would benefit from.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  16. FedUp

    Forgiving her would mean I actually care about her, her dead kid, and her dysfunctional family. The fact is I could care less.. They (including the media) collectively are nothing more one more cracked mirror reflecting how low our society has sunk.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Susan

      I am sickened with the obsession with this case..eveyrone wanted her to be going to the electric chair. I think she panicked and dealt with the drowning of her daughterit in a horrible way, but she may not have known what to do. Those jurors heard every last detail and aquitted her. Nancy Disgrace will see this woman dead and I find her spite and cruelty disgusting.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  17. Mom of 3

    Forgiveness is for the repentant. That would not be Casey Anthony. I don't think there is ANY closure to this woman's behavior and I also don't think that her evil acts are over. Forgiveness is not going to fix her, but would more likely serve to provide an easier path to her next victim. She has been proven to be a pathological liar if nothing else and now that she is free she will be able to stack up more victims.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  18. Mr. Hand

    CNN was perfectly happy to let Nancy Grace engage in tabloid sensationalism for years on this case because it put a lot of $$$$ in their pocket. Now that she's released, if anything should happen to her from the enraged public that CNN helped build, I can only imagine their liability would be astronomical. My guess is the only reason CNN allowed this article to be published is to help guard against the inevitable lawsuits which would likely take more $$$ out of their pockets.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  19. chris

    There is a lot of hate and anger out there and it is a societal issue. Hate and anger only create more of the same – regardless of whether it is justified or not. In one sense, it is a sort of lust – a lust for revenge or a lust to see perceived "justice" served. People should check their own hearts but it won't happen. It doesn't matter whether she is innocent or guilty. What is done, is done. What matters is being able to move on and to let things go. To let healing begin. But again, most people are not healthy enough to do that – as these many replies suggest.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  20. DJ

    What people should do is get on with their lives and let karma have Casey Anthony. The media needs to STOP sensationalizing these cases or they will need to take responsibility for the actions of those who are involved. How does constantly reminding people of this help anyone?

    July 17, 2011 at 10:21 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53
« Previous entry
About this blog

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.