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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. blazer8914

    SHE WILL NEVER HAVE A NORMAL LIFE.SHE HAS TO GO INTO HIDING. THIS IS HER LIFE SENTENCE. THANKS NANCY GRACE FOR JUSTICE FOR CAYLEE. NOW EVERYONE NEEDS TO LET IT GO.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • How R u?

      Wrong...This story will be gone in 6 months...She will be free as a bird in a year. People of greater fame and infamy then her have gone on to live in seclusion without much trouble.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  2. dolomite

    Guilty or innocent, this woman has been tried and convicted in the media; therefore, public opinion has been swayed against her. The simple fact is that she has been tried and found not guilty by a jury of fellow citizens. Regardless of the reasons, be it flawed prosecution, incompetence or lack of concrete proof. By the laws that this nation was founded on; this woman has been found innocent and nothing else can be done to find her criminally liable. She should be allowed to get on with her life and hopefully she has learned from her mistakes and will not repeat them.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • drweenus

      Two letters: OJ.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  3. Puffinmoose1

    Sad comentary in our society. NEVER!!! forgive, nor, FORGET!!. What goes around, indeed, comes back around. She may be fifty yrs old, but, it will get her.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • drweenus

      Damn skippy.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Rebecca Berlier

    It is time to move on now. If Casey Anthony is guilty God will be her judge. That is not for us to do. If someone would find her and kill her it would make them as guilty as she possibly is. I hope Caylee's law is passed. She was such a beautiful little girl.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  5. Glades2

    Those who never knew her or her family (almost everyone on this board) have no reason to accuse her in the first place, and must forgive her – for actions they knew nothing of in the first place, aside from the media reports. "Justice for Caylee" was actually "Vengance for Caylee" since no one, unless they are an attorney, are a fan of the justice system – but many people are easy to call for vengance, whether it be cultures, nations or in this case one individual. Hopefully, if this woman does get a sizeable amount of money for an interview, she should put that money in the bank for day-to-day expenses (since she'll unlikely be able to get a job, for all of the above reasons), then rent a small house for herself in a town far from Florida, and live a quet life – and hopefully and most importantly ask God for forgiveness of anything she did, and ask for God's help to help her live the rest of her life as best as possible. As for we the public – the trial is over, the verdict is in, the prisoner has been released – and her child's remains are now at rest – so time for both the public and media to get on with other business – but hopefully learn a hard lesson from this tragedy – that family life needs hard work, love and attention on a daily basis – and not just when a camera is present...

    July 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Glades2

      The above post is a corrected version of the previous one...

      July 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • drweenus

      Glades2...are you serious???!!!

      I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.

      The evidence presented was enough to convict a person of any other person of color or a male accused of doing this. Someone is going to pull a Dexter on her and honestly, she deserves it. If not by her own hand, she was 100% complicit in the murder of her daughter. Indisputable.

      Disclaimer: In case you are wondering, I am white.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      There is only one detail here, she must acknowledge and confess her guilt publicly in order to get forgiveness from God. She can not hide the truth, and ask God to forgive her! HE require4s her full confession in order to be forgiven!
      I think most people don't understand that ! But there is no other way!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  6. cascott

    While I understand and appreciate the message behind this article, all examples are based on the idea that it is the one who has been directly wronged to forgive (i.e. Eva forgiving all Nazis, Jesus on the cross..). In that case, it is not my position, nor anyone else's, to forgive Casey; that forgivenss can only be handed by little Caylee herself, whether it be to forgive a mother who deliberately or accidentally killed her, or to forgive a neglectful mother who left her alone to drown in a pool and then decided it would be okay to toss in a garbage bag and dump her in a swamp instead of allowing people to properly grieve her loss at the funeral she deserved. Unfortunately, we will never know if little Caylee has chosen to forgive her own "mother." I guess only Casey will know her answer if God ever allows her to cross her path hereafter.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  7. Mimi

    When you get right down to it, this is none of our business. The case is over. Maybe some of this anger and need for vengeance would be better spent challenging our government in terms of war, excess spending, graft and greed that impacts the lives of us all.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  8. blazer8914

    NANCY GRACE HANDED HER A LIFE SENTENCE . SHE HAS TO GO INTO HIDING. SHE CAN'T GO AND PARTY OR DO ANYTHING WE DO ON A DAILY BASIS. THAT IS YOUR JUSTICE FOR CAYLEE. THANKS NANCY

    July 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  9. huxley

    Its time some of you face up to the fact that the tabloid press invented this unbelievable story about a woman who commits premeditated murder of her toddler in order to make more time to attend toga parties. An unbelievable story requires an unbelievable amount of evidence. There wasn't any.

    We may never know exactly what happened and why Casey Anthony did not immediately tell the police what happened. Perhaps she found the child dead and felt responsible for not being there when she died. Perhaps she was in denial. Perhaps she was genuinely traumatized or deranged. Or maybe she's just a pathological liar. None of those things is the same as premeditated murder.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  10. Glades2

    Those who never knew her or her family (almost everyone on this board) have no reason to accuse her in the first place, and must forgive her – for actions they knew nothing of in the first place, aside from the media reports. "Justice for Caylee" was actually "Vengance for Caylee" since no one, unless they are an attorney, are a fan of the justice system – but many people are easy to call for vengance, whether it be cultures, nations or in this case one individual. Hopefully, if this woman does get a sizeable amount of money for an interview, she should put that money in the bank for day-to-day expenses) she she'll unlikely be able to get a job, for all of the above reasons), rent a small house for herself in a town far from Florida, and live a quet life – and hopefully ask God for forgiveness of anything she did, and ask for God's help to help her live the rest of her life as best as possible. As for we the public – the trial is over, the verdict is in, the prisoner has been released – and her child's remains are now at rest, so time for both the public and media to get on with other business – but hopefully learn a hard lesson from this tragedy – that family life needs daily love and attention, and requires love and devotion on a daily basis – not just when a camera is present...

    July 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  11. Terry Colson Jr

    She had some involvement I'm sure,as did the familily.What it comes down to is they freaked when she drowned and didn't carry insurance to have a pool on there property.Most insurance carriers require that you have coverage and I think if that was a question asked or even explored you would find that to be the case.So heres a million dollar question did they have insurance for any incident that might happen having that pool?

    July 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • OMG

      Now how can you be so sure? I am just asking....
      T
      he media especially Nancy Grace in my opinion really sensationalized this case in the media. We may not agree with the decision but it's time to move on. All this violence against Casey isn't going to bring Caylee back, it is sad that people are willing to put so much attention on this case when there are so many more important things to focus on. I wonder whether or not those individuals who claim they want Casey Anthony to be the subject of bodily harm or worse kill her are willing to go to jail for committing the crime?! Or are they just waiting to climb on the bandwagon when someone does something to hurt Casey. Whether or not the truth ever comes out one we'll have to wait and see.

      But seriously people are you all willing to go to jail to commit harm to this woman?! I HIGHLY DOUBT IT – SO MOVE ON!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  12. OMG

    I have to agree with IDK, the media especially Nancy Grace in my opinion really sensationalized this case in the media. We may not agree with the decision but it's time to move on. All this violence against Casey isn't going to bring Caylee back, it is sad that people are willing to put so much attention on this case when there are so many more important things to focus on. I wonder whether or not those individuals who claim they want Casey Anthony to be the subject of bodily harm or worse kill her are willing to go to jail for committing the crime?! Or are they just waiting to climb on the bandwagon when someone does something to hurt Casey. Whether or not the truth ever comes out one we'll have to wait and see.

    But seriously people are you all willing to go to jail to commit harm to this woman?! I HIGHLY DOUBT IT – SO MOVE ON!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  13. Ruby

    You are out of your mind. Forgiveness is an act I will reserve for the sincerely contrite. Otherwise, my Spirit of Forgiveness and the Holy natire of it will just be exploited. Kind of like what you, Dear Writer, are doing here. GROSSSSSSS!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Ruby

      *nature*

      July 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Mimi

      that's not the way it works, Ruby!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  14. really?

    ok, keep "god" out of it. you only forgive because "god" wants you to? pleeze. if i thought your religion was that pure, across the board and didn't start wars, kill and torture whole groups of people, repress others, judges others, then i'd say as a "humanist" looking from the outside, forgiveness is a nice ideal, but you and your god thing make me sick.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  15. Rodger Rico

    Some of you guys are sooo funny! Can we like, sing campfire songs and roast marshmallows too with Charles Manson please! I think everyone should be forgiven and given a second chance! Osama bin Laden should not have been shot! He deserved a second chance! Hitler, he deserved a second chance. Stalin, he deserved a second chance! We need to love Jesus guys, come on! Casey is to be forgiven, for the LORD demands it! If you don't forgive her, the LORD shall strike thee down!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Mimi

      In these cases you cite we know beyond a reasonable doubt that these atrocities were committed.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  16. Bridget

    I wrote about this on my blog too. Everyone seems so certain that she did it, despite being found not guilty. I really don't understand where all of the anger comes from. Here is the link to my post, if you're interested http://twinisms.com/2011/07/08/defending-casey-anthony/

    July 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Rodger Rico

      So what, the jury says she is innocent and we have to accept it? The mental acuity of that jury was worse than a junior high. They were all sick narcissistic freaks, and they love people like Anthony. Because she reminds them of themselves. They could no more convict her, than they could convict themselves. What, a jury has never been wrong? You, MAKE ME SICK!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Brian

    Who does Wanis think he is? It's not up to him to "forgive" anyone. He is setting up a straw man.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  18. You're right - let's all hold hands and sing kumbaya

    We just have to wait until Casey is done choking Caylee, covering her mouth with duct tape and throwing her corpse in the woods. I'd say about 31 days...

    how this so called mom is able to convince herself she's innocent is simply beyond. Her behavior from day one suggests a killer at ease with herself. The only thing standing between her and a lifetime of drugs, alcohol and a cracked pelvis was this poor child

    July 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mimi

      none of your emotional comments have been proven. let it go...man proposes, God disposes.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  19. blazer8914

    HER MOTHER REPORTED IT. SHE HAD NO INTENTIONS OF REPORTING IT. I AM ANGRY AND UPSET THAT THE POOR INNOCENT CHILDREN IN THIS WORLD ARE BEING KILLED BY THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSE TO LOVE AND PROTECT THEM. I WILL NOT SAY THAT SHE NEEDS FORGIVENESS BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT. SHE NOT ONLY TOOK CAYLEE'S LIFE BUT DESTROYED HER FAMILY IN THE PROCESS. I AM NOT OUT FOR VENGENCE. IF I SAW HER I WOULD PROBABLY STARE AT HER AND SHE WOULD KNOW HOW I FELT. AS FAR AS NANCY GRACE GOE I THINK THAT PUTTING HER UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS SHE HAS IS THE ONLY JUSTICE AND PUNISHMENT CASEY IS GOING TO GET. SHE HAS MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR CASEY TO BE A ORDINARY PERSON.THANKS FOR NANCY FOR DESTROYING HER BELLA VITA.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  20. IDK`

    People need to let this go. It's over. If she did do it, there's nothing anyone can do about it at this point. Everyone has a judgement day when they leave this earth.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:03 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.