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. drnight

    “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.”

    I find the Words of Eva Kor to be an amazing expression of the Human capacity to overcome and heal. I wonder if it would be possible for some of those people who still feel outraged, to put some of that energy toward helping find the thousands of missing children who may be brought home alive? Toward outreach programs that teach teen mothers how to be responsible mothers? When I hear of people being attacked for “Looking” like Casey Anthony, I fear that this country may be sliding into a very dark place. There may never be justice for Caylee, and that is a truth many will have trouble accepting and forgiveness may be too big of a leap of faith for some to take. But, we can still take something from this if we turn anger into positive action. What could not be done for Caylee may be done for another child in her stead.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  2. John


    July 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Liberty Queen

    Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person who committed the transgression and is not predicated on whether they are regretful or not for their wrongs. Forgiveness is what helps a person wronged or hurt by another to release their pain and is not predicated on whether or not the wrongdoer feels regret or remorse. Forgiveness is an inner solution to an inner problem.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Pheziwig

    I've seen the video of Caylee and her mother, playing on the floor, a beautiful moment. If the mother did it (and we all have our opinions), her very maternal instinct will hound her and give her no peace and there will be no parole from it in this life. In the mean time, society striving to live well is the best revenge. She is "not guilty." So be it. Leave the mother to her own conscience.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  5. IDK`

    You never know, she could end up like OJ and be convicted ten years from now for another reason.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  6. Johny Aster

    Someone should give her chloroform and put duct tape over her mouth! Then, throw her sorry azz in a shallow grave in the woods! Pizz on her, and then look in her terrified eyes and laugh as the life seeps out of her EVIL, EVIL body! Even the magots won't touch her!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. bluebird

    because these posters are the brain dead children of the shrill Nancy Grace. This is what she has turned folks into. Raging without reason, raging without knowledge of the actual factual evidence. That woman should be fired for what she has done to these people so willing to listen to a lunatic.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  8. ALex

    LOL at all the people who call for vigilante justice (which would essentially be extra-judicial murder). Were you at church earlier today trying to be more like Jesus? The guy who, you know, made forgiveness a central part of Christianity?

    July 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  9. IDK`

    I know I'm going to get bashed for this, but she was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. I know everyone believes she did it, but you weren't on the jury and didn't hear the testimony or see all the evidence. The media convicted her of being gulity from the beginning. I do believe she knows what happend to Caley but the rest of us will never know the real truth. She has to live with whatever role she played in Caley's death whether she's in or out of jail.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  10. Gary B

    You are living in hole buddy, this woman killed her lovely daughter, you can forgive who ever you want but I say the only way ill every see this horrible woman in a good light is when they say, she got what she deserved, i do hope someday she rots in some wooded area as she left her dauhter to do so. Forgive her never

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • bluebird

      Well,i won't be wasting my life with hateful thoughts. Enjoy yours.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  11. Liberty Queen

    Forgiveness for serious transgressions on one's person is not a common dissolution of the pain one feels however, I'm going to check out forgiveness. If Eve Kor can realize Inner Peace through forgiveness of her transgressors, I can as well.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  12. the law

    she killed her daughter.. what mother in would wait 30 days to report a missing child. this is utter bs forgiveness. she should be in jail for 40 years. it disgust me that she got off when the clues are more in the favor of her murdering her own daughter. she's a sick twisted person and she got off. absolute disgust.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  13. Ricky

    All this talk about waiting for God to get her is BS. I hope someone guts her way before it gets to that. Not saying I would, because a Florida jury would def give me the Death Penalty for it, but I pray someone will have the courage and conviction to do what MUST BE DONE! CUT THAT BIATCH, REAL GOOD!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • bluebird

      God looked after Casey Anthony and brought her justice. Caylee watched over as an angel too. That is why she was found not guilty you know.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  14. M Barrett, Terre Haute, Indiana

    The doctor that wrote the opinion is way off base when talking about forgiveness. She doesn't accept any responsibility for her daughter's death and disposal of the body. Her bizarre behavior even to her parents shows guilt beyond a resonable doubt. She will never be forgiven because she has no remorse for what happens.

    I don't know where the doctor received his Ph.D., but he needs to go back to class and learn the basics of human nature. Someone who kills their own daughter is not a candidate for forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  15. PRISM 1234

    For those who struggle with "whether this woman's crime can be really forgiven"...
    I myself believe that she DID murder her own daughter, and do not agree with jury's verdict. I feel she did not get what she deserves.
    Yes she should pay for her doings! !

    I like the post "PERSPECTIVE" wrote on pg 27, addressing two sides of forgiveness. However even this poster misunderstands the Biblical balance of forgiveness...

    This is the biblical balance: This woman may have gotten away with murder in man's court, full of flawed justice!
    But let it be understood by all that if this woman ever wants to obtain forgiveness by God for murdering her child, she will have to come forward and openly acknowledge what she has done, lying about nothing, and submiting herself to receive court's justice for her doings.

    Unless she does that, she WILL NOT be forgiven by God, fr this is the requirement for receiving forgiveness from God!

    Now, that does not portray God who winks on our sins, saying "just come on in, everyone"! His forgiveness is CONDITIONAL.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  16. Rob

    @Frank Rizzo... What you and people like you want is for emotions, not evidence, to decide cases. What you THINK you know, and what you DO know are 2 different things, it's not what you know, it's what you can prove... And in this case, there was no proof of 1st degree murder, no rational juror is gonna put someone to death when a coroner can't rule out murder vs. accident or even give a definitive cause of death, she never should have been charged with 1st degree murder, be mad ot the prosecutor, had she been charged with 2nd degree murder, the jury would have put her away for the rest of her natural life. All you people wanna skirt around the legal system based on what you THINK you know, meanwhile the system is designed to protect YOU... Never know when someone else decides what they THINK they know about you. I think she's guilty as sin... I THINK... I'd have let her walk too, no cause of death = no death penalty.

    And I'm no bible thumper, but God says it's YOUR JOB to forgive.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • RevDana

      Hi Rob – I am a Christian pastor and I have an attorney brother who I dialog back and forth with quite a bit. He shares his insights into criminal law, I give him what I know about the mercy of God. I just want you to know I think you have a really good perspective on this and I know my brother would agree. I also would hope that some of these other posters who are so full of rage and frustration would do themselves (and our society) a favor, and take the advice of Dr. Wanis, and redirect the energy of their anger into something positive. Thanks for your thoughtful post!!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Lee Waldrup

    Casey Anthony fooled a jury of imperfect humans. But one day she will be face to face with the Lord and he does not make mistakes. She will hear Kaylee singing on the streets of gold, and know that the Lord is taking care of Kaylee, giving her eternal life in peace. I just don't understand as a father of two small children how a parent can do anything like this to a child even if she did drown, why would you hide the body and put your child outside to decay. It's such a travesty that we allowed this to happen. R.I.P. Kaylee

    July 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Ronald Whitt

      I wish when someone is found not guilty in court people would honor that. HLN and people cause the people to be upset with jury and Casey. If the media had not tried to convict her in 2008 and all through the trial it has poisoned the country because of all there negative talking. She was found not guilty by a jury a right every american has. I was suprised of the verdict but I understand it was a fair trial and the state did not prove the case so grow up and move on

      July 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  18. Joyce

    I believe Casey Anthony killed her daughter, got away with murder, lied, lied,lied and that her defense lied to get her off. I question that the opening statement involving her family was well planned, not true, but it distracted some . I believe George and Cindy Anthony would do anything to get her off...........and they did. I believe they knew the plan, went along with the lies even though George looked like a pathetic child molester, but............it worked....We now have a devious killer walking around and a pathetic justice system. That's my opinion.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • bluebird

      The defense defended, the prosecution prosecuted. The defense won. Thank goodness for the jurors! Otherwise, our criminal system would be in tatters .

      July 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  19. Lola

    You need to see a shrink because you need help. I am a Christian. In order to receive forgiveness, you must ask for it. Did you miss that part in Sunday School? She got away with killing her baby daughter. God will take care of her if someone in society doesn't do it first.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • bluebird

      Get past it. Stop leading your brain by your emotions and you will be able to see things more objectively.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • fellfingolfin

      "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." That was in a Sunday school lesson and the people who crucified him certainly didn't ask for it. We live in a land where the rule of law is supreme. If our judicial system found her not guilty then it is our obligation to respect that decision and leave the final judgement to God.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  20. paula

    There is not a garbage bag big enough for Casey Anthony.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • bluebird

      Cut her some slack. She will have to get past this just like you will have to past this.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Response

      No slack for Casey.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Ronald Whitt

      Maybe they need one more for all the people who can not accept the jury. It was a fair trial, I did not like the outcome but I do respect the jury's finding and now it is time to grow up and move on

      July 17, 2011 at 1:11 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.