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. Maryann Martinez

    I'll pray for you Sam b. And all the others who want to judge others and try and put people down for their faith. So???? What if ? What if I'm wrong? Then I'm wrong. But........... what if you're wrong? And there is a God . And a heaven. The chance of not believing isn't worth it. 🙂 so I choose to believe!

    July 17, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Trey

      Sam can neither prove nor disprove God's existence. It is better to believe and be wrong, than to not believe and be wrong. We weren't anything before we came to be, but since we came to be, then it would make zero sense if nothing happened to us after death.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Maryann Martinez

      Please look-up, "Pacal's Wager" and get back to us.


      July 17, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  2. Mitch Ohlendorf

    Has she asked for forgiveness?

    July 17, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • jeff

      Why do you care? Maybe she doest believe in god.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  3. WENDY

    How do you forgive someone if you don't know what to forgive them for? She disappeared a 2 year old like a gangster and know one really knows what happened ; ( I hope you didn't pay this guy to write that rubbish.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • WENDY

      NO ONE KNOWS....................

      July 17, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • jeff

      Then how could she have been convicted if you dont know what she did?

      July 17, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • cclowery

      How do you "disappear a 2 year old like a gangster" ??? WTH

      July 17, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  4. phthia

    DR Wanis needs to change his pic...he looks like a wenis..... 🙂 what's up with the hand and chin look HILARIOUS ! You should try harder next time to look smart!

    July 17, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • IfManisFive

      Couldn't agree with you more. Is that a glamour shot? An arrogant picture to match an arrogant article. He does look like weenus...my thoughts exactly when I first started reading the article.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • dr.arrogant

      What an arrogant picture to match an arrogant article. Why is his hand on his chin? Is that a Glamour Shot?

      July 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  5. gary c

    Casey gave her daughter 40 wacks, when she saw what she had done, she went out and had some fun.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Peace2All

      @gary c

      "Lizzie Borden" sends a 'shout out' to you ! 😯


      July 17, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  6. mejazzbo

    It is not a matter of forgiveness. The media puts people in the middle of these events. Ignore the media. Take control of your own minds. Mind your own business. Make the law do it's job. Karma will drop in. OJ is in prison right now and will be for a very long time. Not for the murders of his x-wife and her friend, true. But he is out of the way via his own actions. It will come around on this woman too without anyone's vigilante action.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Peace2All


      It is not a matter of forgiveness. The media puts people in the middle of these events. Ignore the media.

      You Said: "Take control of your own minds. Mind your own business. Make the law do it's job."

      In general, some good thoughts to live by and put into practice. (IMO).

      You Said: "Karma will drop in. It will come around on this woman too without anyone's vigilante action."

      'Karma' is often an interesting phrase that some throw around 'as if' it is a fact of reality. No... 'karma' does not always happen as in a 'he/she will get theirs someday.' There are many examples of people that do not get 'karma' in the way you express.

      Overall, pretty good points, -mejazzbo.



      July 17, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  7. Bob

    THIS idiot was PARTYING while her daughter was missing for a MONTH..........HER mother lied on the stand...........
    Forgive...NOT IN HER LIFETIME.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  8. Cmax

    Everyone should stop talking about how Cayce was convicted in the media. Thank God for the media!! They allowed us to see first hand through the jailhouse tapes and the courtroom procedings just how truly psthological Ms. Anthony is. She lied straight faced while her parents visited her in jail and cried. They were looking for answers and all Casey had for them was disrespect and loathing. While she praised them, in between her amazing lies, her subsequent bahavior shows how shallow that relationship truly was. Yes, there were pundits giving their opinions on the TV shows, but the raw footage we all saw was how people formed their opinions of this sick individual. Are you saying we should not have access to these things?? God Bless the media when they shine a light into dark and dirty corners of an evil-doer's psyche as they did here!!

    July 17, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  9. Al

    It seems that CNN's HLN channel has an obsession with the anger over this case. GET OVER IT!! Whether or not Casey Antony did it, the jury of her peers acquitted her. There is nothing left to prove. The state presented a poor case and the jury acted on that lack of evidence. Let's move on to other important issues that affect our everyday lives.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:28 am |

      Dear Al,

      Shut up.

      Everyone Else

      July 17, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hmm... maybe, and... I would suggest that it is 'not' limited to CNN, HLN, but with pretty much all of the other cable and tabloid news organizations.


      July 17, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  10. Bob

    Even God doesn't forgive people who don't ask for it and CONFESS what they need to have forgiven. Why should we?

    July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • MeMe

      We're not God, thats why. Only he knows the truth. With us not knowing the truth, who are we to judge others.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  11. goony

    The "therapist" is obviously delusional and isn't living in the real world. The wretch who murdered her child deserves every bit of anger society can muster. People like this therapist are indicative of what has gone wrong in our society.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  12. DNA100

    You throw around the word "forgiveness" too easily. You sound as though you believe she deserves it. And, as you try to appear to be the voice of reason, with your saccharine musing, you take a GIANT misstep by trying to compare Casey Anthony's detractors to a Holocaust survivor. How dare you, sir. The large population who are angered by the ruling in this case have not been through any tragedy of their own. Furthermore, you greatly overexaggerate the emotional impact this case has had those who felt the outcome of the trial should have been different. Yes, there are a few who have displayed inappropriate "rage", but feeling "anger" here is appropriate and a sign that people are engaged in their communities. It is ridiculous to imply that people are going to "get stuck in anger" over this. How melodramatic! I think it is more reasonable to encourage people to turn their backs on Casey Anthony, shunning her for the rest of her life. Don't buy magazines that mention her, don't watch television shows that feature her, don't go to see the movies made about her. Let her drift out of our conciousness and into obscurity where she can live out her days, cold and alone. Don't forgive her, because if we do, she will be free, free to live as she chooses, free to profit from her daughters death, and free to travel this earth as if nothing happened.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Jenna

      Well said.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • phthia

      I have just been quipping comments all over of the same sentiment. Bravo! on your articulation!

      July 17, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • cclowery

      Excellent post!

      July 17, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • MeMe

      If you read deeper into this article, you see that giving forgiveness is not for the person who did the wrong, but for yourself to be free of the anger and the hurt that person brought.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • sanneke

      Yes, I agree 1000%, that's what prosecutor Jeff Ashton said also.
      Just ignore her, THAT she can't stand.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Mimi

      This is the answer in my opinion. No punishment would be greater for Casey Anthony than people just ignoring her and thereby refusing to reward her for her crimes.. People should also ignore and refuse to reward those who will profit from the death of Caylee Anthony. The current problem, as I see it, is that there are thousands who are still too angry to see that they are creating a new, improved persona for Casey Anthony, which is destined to bring great riches to her. It's an old method...soap operas and reality shows capitalize on flaunting the people you love to hate. Hate=attention-money. The media knows this very well. I wish people would stop playing into this game but they won't and, as a result, Casey Anthony will become a very rich thing. In fact, she might even get a new tattoo that reads:
      "Thanks Suckers"

      July 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • DNA100


      Believe me, I fully understand the article. Again, this post is way too melodramatic. I don't need to forgive myself for anything. Anger is a natural reaction to a situation like this. If you have bad/angry feelings that linger and cause you harm, believe me, there is more there than just anger about what someone else did. It is more likely YOU did something that you feel bad about.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Maryann Martinez

    Forgive and you will be forgiven. Only god knows her heart. Stop judging and hating. Her soul is just as important to God . You were not there. God was. You don't know what really happened. And you are not God. we need to be more like Jesus.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Sam B

      It's too bad God doesn't exit, and "judgment day" doesn't exist. It's all in yours and every other brain washed mind that Caylee will somehow get justice through God or Jesus, or whoever you believe in. When you are dead, you're dead, that's the end. Nothing else. I wish this world would come to reality and stop believing this fictional story to possibly make ourselves feel better. You get one life, and Casey took Caylee's away. She doesn't deserve to live this dream beautiful lives that she imagines without her daughter. Unfortunately, it looks like she will.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Trey

      Sam, what proof do you have that God doesn't exist? You can neither prove, nor disprove God's existence. We were nothing before we were born, so why did we all of a sudden just become living, if nothing happens afterwards? If we came to be in this life, then who's to say we won't become something else after we die?

      July 17, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Mimi

      Yes, Maryann, and while we're at it, let's forgive all child murderers and anyone else who murders anyone at all, for that matter. Let's open the prisons and set them ALL free. Would that make you happy? Is that what you think your Jesus would want? Is your church big enough for everyone like you to hide under some pew and pray and pretend that the realities of the world will all go away if only we were more forgiving?
      Would you mind terribly if some of us just decided to use the God given brains that we've got to try and be a tad more logical and realistic when it comes to issues that require more than just a pat, yet stupid answer such as the one you give?
      Gee, I hope so. After all, God gave us our brains, too...and our brains are just as important to God as your brain is.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  14. Mike

    The feeling people have toward this trial is not internalized.
    People like speaking out on this trial....among other topics, but few have lost weight or sleep.
    Most people are more outraged over receiving a speeding ticket.

    Sick and immoral things are happening all over the world. This trial is just another one of them...and FAR from the worst. Worse things happen every single day, of every week, of every year, since the dawn of time.

    What if someone DOES NOT forgive this injustice.....what exactly happens to this person? What do we label the depressed person, seeking therapy for the injustice of the Casey Anthony Trial?

    July 17, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • LTurkel

      This is a wound that cannot heal until she tells what happened. People's hearts seek the truth. The depth of lies and deceit cut to the soul. There cannot be FOREGIVENESS and healing until she comes clean. God gave her a chance for a new start, but her body language says its business as usual. We haven't heard the last of her . . .

      July 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  15. Diane

    Replace the forgiveness with ignoring and boycotting any profit of Caylee's death by the Anthony's. This is just another psycho analyst giving his opinion on someone he has never met. If he believes we should forgive someone for murdering their own child think again. I for one cannot. But, I do not condone any violence towards her. Her worst punishment would be for the public to shun her as they did OJ.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  16. troy

    So it's okay for OJ to get media lynched for years, but now the media's giving this baby killing bytch a pass? Typical. Women, especially white women, can literally get away with murder and then get coddled in this country.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • skarrlette

      They do get coddled and frankly I am sick of death of it

      July 17, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Robert

      had this been a large black woman this would have not have been news

      July 17, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Mimi

      By the looks of things, they get a lot more than coddled. They get wrapped up, packaged and sold to the public to the highest bidder. The problem is that the public is buying it. The public lusts after young white women and, when they are diabolical to top it off, the public runs to the bank to buy more. A minority woman and her minority black child...an ugly woman and her dead ugly child, an old woman and her dead older child...no money or interest there at all. People are saying that if you want to get away with murder come to Florida. No, wrong...if you want to get away with murder just be white, young and female and cry a little bit here and there. (At least appear to be crying and that will do.)
      Notice that Aileen Wuornos went to the electric chair in Florida? No wondering why in THAT case, huh?

      July 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  17. Robert

    After looking at this family, I'm starting to think that God let this happen for a reason. Caylee is better off now then she would have been had this not happened. RIP Caylee Anthony

    July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  18. Derek Monjeau

    Devil's advocate. Sorry, but look through history a little more. you can find plenty of cases of justice. Such as hanging the Nazi leadership. What if it was your daughter... I couldn't forgive in my lifetime if that was the case.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  19. reddog

    She was found not guilty by a Jury. Maybe that's not what some of you like, but that's the way our Country works. If you'd prefer stoning her, or taking the law into your hands, or some other barbaric work of revenge, then you'll have to move to another country and regress to the 8th century. Get over it, stop eating twinkies and drinking diet soda and do something productive with your lives.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  20. Sam B

    I can't believe how many people have been brain washed their whole lives to believe in God. It's so sad. That is it for Caylee. There is no after life. You die and that's it, whether you want to accept it at all. It's sick how many people can believe in a fictional story made up by humans because we're scared to admit there is nothing after life. Casey killed Caylee, and Casey does not deserve to continue to live. At the very least, she should be in jail for life.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • o.k.

      Sam–not all of us were brainwashed. I spent a good deal of time denying that I had an obligation to recoginze God. In order to satisfy my own selfish desires that my agnostic life was just fine, I took a look at faith. I looked at the evidence, and I made an intellectual (not emotional) decision to follow Christ based upon the evidence. I would encouage you to do the same. In the end, it doesn't matter if I'm right or if your right–the only thing that matters is the truth. However, unless you've actually looked into the facts concerning Christ (not just your own selfish belief–without looking at all of the evidence), you'll never truly understand why so many people have accepted Christ. God bless.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Mimi

      Watch out Sam. You are being too logical.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
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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.