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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. G

    Leave her alone. She is set free by a justice system we all have been believing and following for a long time.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  2. melba

    Let us not forget that God can forgive. he forgave Paul for being a murderer and persecuter of his own church before became the apostle Paul, spreading the message to the gentiles and for that we have been reached!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  3. kevin

    Do you mourn then same for the thousands of children that come up missing every year? What is it about a JonBenet Ramsey or a Caylee Anthony that makes everyone want to have a say in what happens? Where is the concern for the other missing children? I am not being cold; I am being realistic. This child died three years ago. there are missing cases that need our full attention right now: black, latino, etc. Where is the mourning for these children. I wish the media would treat all of the cases with the same vigor.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Joseph Stalin

      Because the death of one child is a tragedy, while the deaths of thousands is a statistic. A better question is why the media (e.g. Nancy Grace and her ilk) doesn't create feeding frenzies out of every child-death case.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • kevin

      Has Nancy Grace ever covered a missing child case for months on end, where the child was black/latino/etc?

      July 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • kevin

      My prayers not only go out to the family of Caylee. I also pray for Nancy Grace. She seems so filled with hate and rage all the time. I understand that she had a fiance that was killed in 1979, but I have to wonder if that is the full source of her rage. She is brilliant, but that is sometimes overshadowed by her anger. I like her, and I wish her well.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  4. atlast9643

    Only God knows what hapened on that faithful day. And only God will be the jugde when the day comes for final judgement.all of us are siners the moment we are born.lets pray that repentants will come for forgiveness and not to comdem any one .She was been tried by a jury and with a jugde to guide them.There is a saying that there is no debt that can go.Some how somebody who is so dear to her will have pay for your debt in this world.Let us pray for forgiveness in our hearth to forgive.If God Jesus forgave who murder him why can we not forgive to remove bitterness and to God in our hearth.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Joseph Stalin

      "faithful day" I believe you meant "fateful." I'll be kind and not start on the rest of your post.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @atlast9643

      The problem is, there is no god. That's why we allow juries to decide guilt or innocence. This jury found her innocent. As a nation of laws, we should abide by the jury's decision.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Sieben

      Amen! A sane opinion at last.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Lyle

      God and Casey knows what happened to Caylee not just God.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Lyle

      In order to forgive someone they must first admit their wrong doing. She does nothing but lie and deny. The day she admits the truth about what she did is the day forgiveness can be considered.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  5. Perryboy

    I didn't forgive OJ, so I won't forgive Casey.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • kevin

      I agree that it is difficult.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Sieben

      OJ was also acquitted in criminal court. What is the problem people have with the American system of justice? I'm surprised no one has come up with a scheme to try Anthony on some bogus "wrongful death" charge in civil court. Why don't you find someone convicted on dubious grounds and campaign for their retrial? At least that would serve a useful purpose. As Neil Young sang, "Hate is everything you think it is.".

      July 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  6. Wayne Phillips (opentablechurch.org)

    Real, transformational forgiveness requires 3 things:
    1. Confession: taking responsibility for and acknowledging the wrong to others.
    2. Payment: recognizing that Jesus, the sinless one, paid the penalty on the cross for the wrong (justice has been served, a payment has been made). This makes reconciliation with God, our ultimate judge, possible.
    3. Commitment: doing what is in your power to make amends.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  7. Hatfield

    Her not getting what she deserved will simply make others believe they can get away with anything. There is punishment for crimes for a reason. It sickens me that she is getting away with this and I hope I am wrong when I say this, but I believe if there are other sick and twisted people out there who are contemplating killing their two year old's they might just go ahead and do it now. They will be thinking hey, she got away with it, so can I.....Absolutely ridiculous. Jesus performed a miracle when the people who killed him were forgiven. God demands repentance for our forgiveness. That takes admitting you did something wrong first.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  8. AJ

    I think it was Schwartzkopf who said "Forgiving them is God's job; our job is to arrange the meeting.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  9. Lill

    Forgiveness will be a self-help endeavor in order to be more emotionally free, mentally healthy and Christlike? Isn't that what I'm being told here? OK–WHEN and IF Casey ever repents for all of the harm she has inflicted.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  10. IDK`

    Once another child goes missing and killed, the media will cover it 24/7 and everyone will forget about Casey. Sad to say, but true.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Perryboy

      @ How R u? You got this one wrong, there's thousands of us that will never forget.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • kevin

      Exactly. It's how the media sells their shows.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Perryboy

      You said: "there's thousands of us that will never forget."

      The decision of the 12 was the only one that mattered.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  11. John

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]
    *^

    July 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Prometheus

      I'll see you a Butterfly and raise you a Sia:

      http://www.youtube.com/user/Prometheus1st?feature=mhee#p/f/7/mtM_cc4SPJI

      July 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Prometheus

      oops...

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtM_cc4SPJI&w=480&h=390]

      July 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Prometheus

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtM_cc4SPJI&w=640&h=360]

      July 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  12. Jen

    Forgiveness would be easier if she would apologize – something the nazi doctor did, but Casey Anthony did NOT do.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Jen

      You said: "Forgiveness would be easier if she would apologize – something the nazi doctor did, but Casey Anthony did NOT do."

      The Nazi were guilty. Casey was found innocent by a jury of her peers.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  13. Prometheus

    "Revenge is a poison meant for others that we end up swallowing ourselves..."

    "Vengeance is a dark light that blinds all who seek it...."

    "When you go forth to seek vengeance against one...first dig two graves."

    Concerning the C.A. Trial in the media: Gaze not long into the abyss, for if you do so the abyss gazes into you.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  14. Elena

    Horrible, horrible crime, but was not accidental....God is the one that has to deal with this woman...and believe it God is the Judge of every action...this woman should be veeery afraid of the God's Judgement.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Elena

      You said: "Horrible, horrible crime, but was not accidental....God is the one that has to deal with this woman...and believe it God is the Judge of every action...this woman should be veeery afraid of the God's Judgement."

      There is no more evidence for god, than for Santa or fairies. LOL!

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Sieben

    What part of "innocent until proven guilty" do people not understand? When the State brings charges against a citizen in this country, it must prove it's case in a court of law. If it cannot, the accused is innocent. As for the charges of which she was found guilty, she's already served her time in jail. Have you ever been in jail? If anything, I think it's a travesty that someone could be imprisoned for three years without ever being tried at all.

    Let it go. Don't live even a small part of your life sick with anger, sick with hate.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Paul

      Blah, blah, blah. She got away with murder. Anyone can see that. Kill the you-know-what...

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

      What rock do you live under? Just because you are found "not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" by a jury of your "peers" it does NOT mean you are innocent. She deserved to be in jail because she continuously lied to the police about important details regarding her child's disappearance and death!

      July 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • nannimoe

      Even some of the jurors believe she is NOT innocent. The fact is that the prosecution just did not have the evidence to convict her. Not Guilty, does not mean innocent.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sieben

      I live under a rock called the United States system of justice. I sure am glad you people are not in charge of it.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Beverly Jackino

      The time she spent in jail was a 'drip' in the bucket & was for a crime she was convicted...she wasn't held for nothing! Now, we the state, must pay her living quarters as she is indigent; until she can steal more checks. She stole her grandfathers hospital money! Pretty low! We'll see her again in a court. Biez took her to a mental hospital as it was said so awhile ago...

      July 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  16. thetruth

    Wow, truly unbelieveable how people our talking about forgiven this psycopath, in such hanes crime agaist a child I think you need forgivness for your mental illnes.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  17. How R u?

    Thanks Doc....It's people like yourself that allow people to treat others like crap and forgive them without recourse...Therefore they never face consequences to their actions.....As I also study human behavior I find that once you set a precedence to allow persons to get away with deeds such as this they lose all sense of correct moral judgement....But, Who cares Casey is not the only sociopath free in this world, nor will she be the last.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Paul

      Agreed 100%. Where has common sense and justice gone? This woman did it, and everybody knows it. I say give her the needle, and let God forgive her...

      July 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Gingersnap

      Where do you live? Let's meet so I can buy you a drink and give you a fistbump.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  18. Jclayscott

    I don't understand the comparison of a victim who lived (Eva Kor) and one that had her voice taken from her (Caylee). Casey Anthony committed a crime and did not ask for forgiveness, instead she sought and got away with murder. Shouldn't the victim be the one that has the first opportunity to forgive, an opportunity that will never be afforded to Caylee. While I think seeking revenge is wrong, I think everyone has a very real right to be indignant with our justice system and the unscrupulous actions by Casey and her defense team.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Carol

      I absolutely agree. She got away with murder because her lawyers lied. Somehow I think that Baez should pay for these lies. He's a disgusting person and I believe a lousy lawyer.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Jclayscott
      You said: "Casey Anthony committed a crime and did not ask for forgiveness, instead she sought and got away with murder."

      Casey Anthony always maintained, that she did not murder her daughter. A person does not ask for forgiveness for crimes they haven't committed.

      You said: " While I think seeking revenge is wrong, I think everyone has a very real right to be indignant with our justice system and the unscrupulous actions by Casey and her defense team."

      Yes, we should be indignant that the system didn't deliver the justice you believe to be correct.

      The unscrupulous actions of Casey and her defense team that caused the jury to not deliver a guilty plea? When a person declares their innocence, I don't think it unscrupulous to "defend" that plea.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  19. Peace

    As a long time adovcate for childern and familes, I understand how people are feeling right now. Betrayed, sad, and a lot of anger. However, this is not our experience. It was Caylee's and Caseys. I watched video of this woman with her daughter and it appears there was a healthy Mother child bond. Casey's psychologist even reports that the accusations that she faced would have been out of character.

    Maybe she didn't do the right thing by reporting, maybe she did go out (probably because she had disassoicated), maybe she'll greive more than the masses could because she lost her daughter. The reality is we don't know the situation, we don't know what happend other than what the media has reported. No offense to the media but sometimes they get things wrong or present it in a way because they are making a story which makes money. The more dramatic the more people of the United States get into it.

    No one knows what they would do in certian situations and therefore we should not judge. Again this is not apart of us, this is something people want to be apart of – which is scary in many ways. Why latch on to something that has no place in our lives. Hug your childern, play with them, love them, and thank god that you have them.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • kevin

      Outstanding post. Thank you.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • How R u?

      Peace....BS, Millions of people have lost children at a young age...Even if the child died by accident, her actions that she performed afterwards....Dispossing of the body, lieing to police officers/friends/family, Shows a clear sign of psychosis...Nobody and I mean nobody who loses a child to an accidental drowning just disposes of their body as if they were a dead pet. It is uplifting to see people mourn the death of Caylee...Because it was obvious her mother did not.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • TheGuyNextDoor

      So you viewed one video of Casey & Caylee and you come up with all this BS. Please take off your rose colored glasses. Of course she is guilty as hell. Just because the jury found her not guilty does not mean they did not make a mistake. Let me remind you of OJ Simpson, or have you forgotten.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Peace

      You said: "thank god that you have them."

      Why thank god that you have children?

      Curious in Arizona

      July 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  20. 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.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @kevin

      Prayer does not work. Other than lying to the police, a jury has decided she has done nothing to be forgiven for. She was in jail, for over 3 years, for her lies. Looks like she has paid her debt to society.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:02 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.