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. pherz

    I just hope instead of this forgiveness b.s. spilled by h omo authoring this garbage her dad sues her evil a $$ with a civil suit so she get identical karmic justice that OJ got.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Joe Mahma

    "But does the anger, revenge and bitterness help bring back Caylee?"

    That's just about the lamest supposition imaginable. My bank ripped me off once, and when I told them I was closing my account because they ripped me off, the bank officer said "Well, ya know, closing your account isn't going to get your money back."

    People are well aware that something that is gone is not going to come back. That's not the issue, dumbåss.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nomad

      I am all for forgiveness but in this case, lets first consider the facts. A 2 year old beautiful child has been murdered. Four adults know something about the case but refuse to talk. A jury decides to let the accused go free and now we have a mother on the loose who knows exactly what happened to her child. We have an obligation as a society to do justice to the child. We cannot just dismiss this case and sazy oh well this is just too bad. Come on people, have we become so insensitive that we give up in teh middle of a case like this. No, we need to have the truth and the truth is somewhere with these 4 people who were close to the child. If we cannot get the truth from one of them, then in God's name we lock up all four until the truth is known. Anything less then that is not justice for the child and not fair to society at large. Get rid of the lawyers and turn the case over to the people of this country and trhe case will be solved quickly.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Chris6

    Mr Wanis, you are pathetic. Has religion driven all logic from your mind? Let's take forgiveness to it's ultimate end and forgive everybody. Set all of the prisoners free! No more police or courts, forgive everything! What a shame the allied forces could not forgive the Nazis, and just let them have Poland, France, Russia, etc. etc.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • sandy beaches

      Preciously Chris! ridiculous...

      July 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  4. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Even if people forgive her, her karma will not. It may take awhile, like it did with OJ, but eventually it will catch up with her.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  5. JulieTX

    CNN !!! Stop feeding this media circus. It's over and the verdict has been rendered. CNNs Nacey Grace and cronies have become the FOX News in this case.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Bob

      OMG. I so agree with Julie. Stop making matters worse. Just let it be!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Din

    @Frank Rizzo, I don't know how you make a statement that Everyone in this country and around the world now very well she is guilty. This means about 312 million american people or about 7 billion people around the world... I personally respect the jurors.. it doesn't mean Jurors found Casey Anthony not guilty, she not guilty..

    July 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Ricky

      Seems CNN is selectively blocking the pro justice comments, and only posting the Anthony lovers comments! Makes me sick!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Ricky

    How preposterous! We don't need to forgive her for anything. This guy is an utter and complete idiot and how he got on here is beyond me! What he needs to do is drive off a cliff with Anthony. The worst sociopathic killer to get away with murder since OJ! Shut your fat mouth Wanis! I was having a splendid day until I had to read this garbage. You make me violently sick!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • sandy beaches

      You are kidding right? Over my dead body will I forgive this pyscho baby killer.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • JulieTX

      You have serious anger issues if you can allow this to to ruin any one of your days. Ms. Anothony's trial and verdict is not the first, nor will it be the last, not to go as the media has hyped it up to go. Nor will it be the last one to to deal with just a sensitive matter such as a child. In fact, 2 weeks ago today, 6 miles a part in the state of Michigan, one 2 yr old child lost her life and another 2 yr old left in critical condition, both at the hands of their fathers. Where is Nancy Grace and her cronies now? Oh that is right, in Orlando working on ratings. (Shameful)

      July 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  8. debr611

    All we can do now is boycott. Movies, books, etc. Any actress dumb enough to accept the part of "Casey" should be boycotted for life of any other movies along with the movie company, producers, etc. Anyone who takes part in making money off this tragedy of justice has no morals. This includes Cindy, George and Lee. The only justice we can get for Caylee is that there is Karma for Casey.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  9. Sandy

    We're SO OVER her so just quit talking about her!!! She'll get God's justice!!!
    There's other stories to talk about!!!
    ps: Love Nancy Grace!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • bltzkrig

      But not enough to read news about her and leave comments?

      July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Din

      Nancy Grace? she is now under fire..

      July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  10. Heather

    One has to apologize in order for forgiveness to follow. This animal has never apologized, showed remorse, or admitted to any wrongdoing. Her primary goal has always been to save herself from punishment. One cannot forgive someone who denies, lies, and only continues to act in their own self interest.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  11. Your Inner Voice

    How about we stop worrying about other people's lives and worry about our own!

    This is the problem about our country. We can never move on. We abuse ourselves more than others abuse us. We punish ourselves over and over for the same mistake. How can we ask for justice from our country, when there isn't any justice inside of us???

    This is psychology at its deepest level.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  12. Adam

    This is Mr. Wanis, a frequent face on FOX NEWS and also a "celebrity" life coach. He offers weight loss hypnosis and over phone consolations. He has his PHD from the PRESTIGIOUS(sarcasm) Open International University for Alternative Medicine.(google it) He probably wouldn't be so forgiving if it was his grand-daughter that was decomposing in the forest....save me your text book B.S. and stop trying to gain publicity through this tragic situation.You give a bad name to behavioral therapists ever and its a disgrace to CNN to put your face on the front page.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • pherz

      I knew this article was b.s. and didn't deserve a read. Thanks for info.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  13. Marc in Florida

    Unless you listened to testimony in the courtroom day after day, you must accept the verdict from the jury. Those that feel the court system failed relating to this case should begin efforts to improve it through appropriate actions with elected officials. Casey Anthony should be able to get on with her life. The trial is over.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • adrienne

      I think its time for everyone to move on from the verdict. Whats done is done.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Ricky

      We don't have to do any such thing. You don't tell a cat what to do, let alone us. You're as sick as Anthony! Go run into traffic!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Frank Rizzo

      Sounds like you support this Killer being freed? Hey Marc if she killed your daughter you would be singing a different tune buddy, you have no supporters here so step off and go find your friend casey maybe you could invite her to your house for dinner with your family lol.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  14. William

    We do know that 2 1/2 year old Caylee Marie Anthony's body was wrapped in a garbage bag and left in an area of a swamp where people dump their garbage to rot. We do know that kc anthony was Caylee Marie Anthony's mother. We do know that for 31 days kc partied and lived her bella vitta, giving no one a clue as to Caylee Marie Anthony's being missing or dead. We do know if it wasn't for cindy anthony confronting the issue, we likely still would not know Caylee Marie Anthony was missing or dead.
    I Agree.
    We do know that the trunk kc's car stunk of human decomposition.
    I disagree. The witnesses could not agree on the odor. Furthermore, the presence of only one blow-fly leg when the trunk and parts of the car should have been filled with maggots isn't very convincing. It also doesn't help when the prosecutor's main witness with regard to the odor says "I tested it and it had elements of human composition" and then answers "It's proprietary. I can't tell you!" when asked to describe his methodology.
    Given that 2 1/2 year old Caylee Marie Anthony is dead, it's not too much of a leap to put her body in the trunk of kc's car.
    Yes, but even so - Caylee's body could have been placed in the trunk after she drowned while Casey and George figured out what they would do. George Anthony was not convincing and appeared to be hiding information making it plausible that he and Casey could have panicked after Caylee drowned.
    We do know that from mid July to mid December 2008, kc lied about the events surrounding 2 1/2 year old Caylee Marie Anthony's disappearance/death.
    As the prosecution PROVED, Casey is a pathological liar. Maybe they shouldn't have since they presented a compelling case that Casey was a habitual liar all her life. Therefore her lying after Caylee's death wasn't surprising since she always lied. Perhaps if this was the FIRST time she was caught in a lie, the lying part would have been more convincing.
    We do know that while speaking to her parents in the Orlando jail, kc smiled, giggled, laughed and expressed great concern for her situation while the body of 2 1/2 year old.
    We also know Casey has had emotional problems all her life. In fact such problems seem to run in her dysfunctional family. So it's not surprising she acted irrational. So did her father in having an affair while the search for his granddaughter was being conducted.
    Caylee Marie Anthony was lying in the swamp being eaten by maggots. No disagreement. However, based on forensics, her body had been placed there AFTER Casey was in jail enhancing the case that George Anthony was involved and both Casey and he acted out of panic after Caylee drowned. There was NO evidence of a murder having taken place so if anything it appears that Casey might have been guilty of negligent homicide, which the prosecutor refused to consider when bringing her up on charges.
    I think vengeance and lust for Casey's blood is disgusting and depraved. Good thing you don't live in the 17th century or else if a couple of people didn't like you and someone got sick and died, they would accuse you of casting a spell and you would've been unfairly burned at the stake as so many other INNOCENT people during that era based on your evidence alone: 1. A person got sick and died; 2. The family has a body to prove. 3. Two or more people accused you of casting a spell (even if you did not).

    July 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • lsre

      Good rationale and well written.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mirabella

      Pretty words, William. None of them will matter, though. Some lunatic will get her and I say good riddance to bad rubbish. Thank goodness there are far more who agree with me than with you.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  15. catt

    it is not the fact that she was found not guilty that angers me. Nobody really knows what happened so how can I judge based on that. What makes me angry and think she deserves a punishment is her irresponsible manner as a mother. what kind of a mother hide her daughter's disappearance and show no emotion whatsoever. I feel sad for Caylee. she deserved better.

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

      "what kind of a mother hide her daughter's disappearance" Quite possibly one who has seen the frothing, rabid mobs Nancy Grace has whipped up in the past when facts didn't support her rants. Given the calls (and at least one misguided attempt) to visit violence and mayhem on Anthony to somehow correct for a "failure" of justice, I'd be certain that in the future there will be quite a few more parents who, finding themselves in the situation of reporting a child's accidental death, will think long and hard before picking up the phone out of fear that they'll be set upon with torches and pitchforks.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  16. barbara

    It would be much easier to forgive her if she had confessed to what she did early on and let that baby's remains decompose preventing a proper burial. She's a disgrace. She thinks she's gotten away with it... but she's gotten away with nothing... God will see to that.... one way or another.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Mazie

    I wish she would have been found innocent by reason of insanity, then maybe should would get the help she needs. Althought I think she is beyond help. She is Evil, and I hope Evil catches up to her.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  18. Christy B

    Forgive ME, in this case, but CNN has, as much as any 'news' outlet, obsessed over this case and trial, and manipulated its audience for ratings. Terrible cruelties happen every day, in every community, and trials happen as well. CNN saw an attractive female accused of a terrible act, and exploited the drama shamelessly. For CNN to devote thousands of hours of valuable airtime to this tragedy, and to encourage this emotional response, and then hire a therapist to explain to us why we should not feel this way, is beyond contemptible. Manipulate a response in your viewers to goose up your ratings, and then pretend you give a damn. I am sick to death of CNN.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Nitalynn

      Are you as old as I am or did they actually teach you about yellow journalism in high school. On the other hand you could actually be an intelligent person with common sense. The statistical chance of that is so remote though. They are all but extinct.

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

      Completely agree, however I believe CNN spent 'more' time on this story than other news outlets. Sadly, even more than FOX News, go figure. I also believe without this media circus, Ms. Anthony would of been charged correctly and therefore would not of walked out of the county jail this morning and still be sitting in a prison somewhere in Florida.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  19. Nitalynn

    It amazes me the number of people who must have actually witnessed the murder and did not come forward to testify. Makes me wonder where the crime was actually committed. Must have been in a stadium or something. There is no way they could all fit in her house.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Cheryl

      I agree with you NItalynn: So many people say she did it but yet NOT ONE single person witnessed her do it! This case has really bothered me because I once was accused of something I did not do. Sure, all the "evidence" pointed to me, but imagine how embarrassed and ashamed my co-workers felt when the person who did it came forward admitting she did it and said she did it as a joke! I just remember thinking if I had been on trial for murder for that situation, because all the "evidence" pointed to me, I'd gotten the death penalty for it. Because of that situation, I refuse to say anyone is guilty unless someone saw them do it. Common sense and what something looks like does not guilt prove!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  20. eve48

    Please the law is an ass sometimes the defence was good enough to put reasonable doubt in the jury minds so casey is free but.some body is responsible for that child death . but she was tried and was freed so get over it and live justice will be served eventually asked oj

    July 17, 2011 at 12:13 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.