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. Frank Rizzo

    No forgiveness no hate, what the American People want and demand is JUSTICE and Punishment for murdering her 2-year old daughter Caylee end of stoey. Patrick Wanis,the so-called Ph.D.is leading the charge for forgiveness and I would ask him if it was your daughter that she killed what would be your position?

    Everyone in this country and around the world now very well she is guilty of killing her daughter and the evidence is clear to the bone! Casey knows she guilty and everyday of her life she will be reminded of this, I hope the Fed's would step in and investigate this case and if they do I'm confident a Federal Jury would find her guilty.No forgiveness thats God's department not the American Public.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  2. red herring

    The devil herself is out of town at a business vacation with good ole JC....they are discussing what to do with this creature ...niether one of them want her in the afterlife.....she is really alone......very alone!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • sumanadevii

      lol Red Herring..even too evil for the devil...So true!!!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • ME

      PEOPLE... in that case... for all the people that are being killed in Afghanistan, iraq, libya.. the entire US army should be sentenced. A dead child is a dead child where ever in this world! I do believe its an accident that spiraled out of control.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  3. Tara

    "Even if Casey Anthony had been found guilty and were to be put to death, would that help Caylee or other living children?" Yes, it would as it might make other parents think twice about doing this to their own child! If we can save one other child from suffering the same fate as Caylee then, yes, it was worth it.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • ME

      Yeah... of course... birth it and starve it or neglect it... THAT would have been better. Maybe she is better off... for she is probably now in a better place!

      July 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  4. edyvan

    With her hair pulled back and her ears....she looks like a hobbit.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  5. Lindalou

    Out of site, out of mind. I just hope she disappears from the news and we can all put it behind us. She knows what she did, that will be the memory she has to live with. That could be the worst punishment of all for her.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  6. Robert

    Instead of the case for forgiving her, I'd like to see someone make the case for forgetting the whole thing and concentrating on the many other injustices around the world! Like Syria where 1600 people have been killed for asking for the freedom we take for granted in the US! What about the child who was tortured and mutilated to death by Asad's secret police and his body sent to his family. I guess that doesn't make for good reality TV, does it? I have a hard time forgiving people who only care about injustice when it's part of our culture of entertainment.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  7. Steve

    Part of the reason people are not inclined to forgive is that Casey has not indicated any desire for that, and, that while the jury acquitted her of charges due to lack of forensics, it was Casey who directly created the lack of forensics by lieing about where her daughter was.

    I don't get a jury's conclusion that they didn't have enough to go on when Casey made it that way.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Rex Lutherin

      I've been asking myself the same question. Here is the reality... the jury was composed of spineless idiots who no doubt just wanted to get home so they wouldn't miss more CSI. I listened to one of them interviewed, and she sounded like a complete moron. This is where the problem lies, it's us as a society.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  8. grizz

    Whether or not Casey is guilty is only known by three- Casey, Caylee and God. The only ultimate ones who have to forgive her are Caylee and God. The rest of it is not up to me at all and has nothing to do with my life. A little girl's life was destroyed. That makes me sad and wanting justice for her but ultimate justice does not happen in this life or this world. None of us has to worry because the guilty will face a much higher court where no one is able to fool anyone. Meanwhile, I have my own life to get right and need to pass judgement on only myself.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • sumanadevii

      lol..."the little girl's life was destroyed"????? How about cut short, murdered, dead...And yes, the woman needs to answer to this society for her deed. A precious child was taken from all of us. She best find another country. She will never be accepted in our society again.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  9. Dennis

    In the movie "Moonstruck" one line said "Only God can point the finger..." Regardless of the young woman's guilt or lack thereof, she will, as will we all, answer for her sins. Maybe instead of relegating Casey to hell we should let God do His job.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  10. obamayakyak

    Maybe Ms. Anthony will be hired by the Obama Administration. She would fit right in with the crowd.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • somuch2say

      And you must have worked with the Bush administration because you are an idiot.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  11. telstory71

    Oh and btw, child killers are NEVER forgiven sorry.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  12. marko polo

    some honest and hardworking citizens end up in prison for years because of a minor mistake. On the other hand, tot mom casey anthony, a cold blood killer, is free and we have to forgive her? Our forgiving or not forgiving her does not make any difference. She killed he innocent daughter and than partied like an animal. she is now free and little Caylee's soul is crying out for justice.

    I think more than anyone, the jurors of the case are responsible for the sad tragedy. It seems that they were looking for a video of the whole crime to convict her. Our justice system is the best in the world, but perhaps from now on the elected jurors should take IQ test before sitting in the court room.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • sumanadevii

      I agree. A test should be given. Even one in just basic reading and vocabulary. These folks just didn't have a clue. The educational system in that town should be checked. It's our tax dollars raising these idiots.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  13. telstory71

    I'd like to see this be a black man or woman....

    July 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Amurrca

      You mean like OJ?

      July 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  14. splasher6

    Yea just forgive her its the liberal way

    July 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • ol hippie

      bet he wouldn,t be so forgiving if it was his daughter

      July 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • jen

      i'm a liberal and i will NOT forgive her. this isn't a red/blue issue. this is about justice/injustice.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  15. kevin

    Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • sumanadevii

      Then I am damn proud to not be a christian. Guess if it were your little girl she murdered you would be all loving her. Another village idiot.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Rex Lutherin

      So is money, and lots of it.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • kevin

      What good does it do to hate her? What does that solve? Maybe we should have compassion for her. Just because she was not allowed to use insanity as a defense does not mean that she isn't mentally ill. She needs forgiveness and a lot of help. If you don't believe in prayer, fine. I respect your beliefs. I just think she needs a life of counseling and love, at this point.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  16. red herring

    Casey Anthony...."the devil made me do it" do what? oh nothing, never-mind it's no big deal....

    July 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  17. sumanadevii

    We have nothing to forgive. I guess the b itch should ask sweet baby for forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  18. David

    Patrick Wanis, Ph.D, you need to see a doctor yourself. Her 2-year old daughter Caylee is dead and she played a part in her murder. You don’t dump a child in the woods to rot accident or no accident. Let me say it again, Caylee is dead, no forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  19. kellie

    John 8:1-11. The mobs outside the courthouse this morning reminded me of the story in the Bible where the people brought the woman to Jesus and they wanted to stone her. Guess who was the only one on her side? Yep. It was Jesus, basically telling them not to judge her. Think about it people. Wash your own judgemental hands.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • red herring

      Yawning on jesus rhetoric

      July 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • red herring

      Can't help you or even play devil's advocate.....the devil himself wants no part of this.....he is on business vacation in heaven w/JC ...neither one of them know what to do with this creature Casey from another dimension.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • amy322001

      I've never killed, accidental or otherwise, my child then put it in a bag and dump it in the woods (which really proves it was no accident). I feel no shame in judging this case and feel strong even Jesus would view it this way.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Can someone please play the devil's advocate and help me try to understand this verdict?

    1. On the day Caylee went missing, the last person (aside from Casey) to see Caylee alive, stated that they saw her leave with Casey in Casey's car from her parents house, around 1 pm.

    2. Casey's boyfriend testified that Casey showed up at his house around 4pm later that evening....BY HERSELF!!!

    2.5. Shortly after Caylee went missing, Casey shows up at her neighbor's house asking to borrow a shovel.

    3. Even later that evening, video from blockbuster shows Casey arm-in-arm with her boyfriend, again, no Caylee.

    4. For the next month, Casey lies and lies about where Caylee and herself are at.

    5. Down the road when Casey's in prison and on a phone call with her mom, her mom asks where she should start looking for Caylee, Casey says "Search locally, near our house." (Caylee was found a quarter mile from the Anthony house).

    6. Her car is found ABANDONED with the smell of death and a hair that very closely resembles her daughters and has a ring around it that can only be associated with death is found in the trunk. Casey never reported her car stolen and she was the last person seen driving it.

    7. When little Caylee was found, she was found with three pieces of duct tape (unique and matching to a roll at the Anthony family house) acrossed her mouth (two long ways and one up and down and with the outline of a heart sticker on it) and adhesive residue resting on the skeleton in the area around the mouth.

    8. In the bag with Caylee, was a shirt from the Anthony house, and a winnie the pooh blanket that matched a set back at the house.

    9. Searches for cloroform and "neck breaking" were found on the Anthony computer and it was confirmed that these searches were performed when no one but Casey was home.

    10. Traces of Cloroform were found in Casey's car as well as hair from Caylee's remains. Not to mention, traces of 7-8 other sleep-inducing drugs were also located in Caylee's hair.

    11. The bag Caylee was found in was even traced back to their house.

    12. The initial 911 call made by Casey's mother included a statement she made about the car "smelling like death"

    Not even taking into account the fact that Casey lied and partied for the whole month after Caylee went missing (lied even longer than that), or the fact that 3 days after Caylee went missing Casey got a tattoo that said "beautiful life", or the fact that later that week she was taking body shots off another girl and entering hot body contests.... ignoring all this....

    How does a jury, who doesn't request to see any of the evidence while in deliberation (NONE AT ALL...not one single scrap of evidence in the short 11 hours they were deliberating), still say that Casey isn't guilty of MURDERING HER PRECIOUS BABY GIRL? How do you look at a picture of a skull with THREE PIECES OF DUCT TAPE OVER THE MOUTH AND NOSE AREA, and still say you have no idea how that beautiful girl died?

    Scott Petterson had MUCH less evidence than the 350+ pieces the prosecution presented against Casey, and he's on death row.

    Can anyone tell me why this shouldn't sound wrong to me? Maybe I'll just have to wait until the jurors come back from Disney World and ask them myself.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • sumanadevii

      It took an entire village to raise the idiots on that jury. I think the Feds should check out the water supply or their educational system. These people just didn't understand what reasonable doubt means. Probably never heard the term.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • red herring

      red herring
      Can't help you or even play devil's advocate.....the devil himself wants no part of this.....he is on business vacation in heaven w/JC ...neither one of them know what to do with this creature Casey from another dimension.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:07 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.