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. Tom

    After reading this article a few things come to mind. First, I comparing a woman who forgave Nazi's for abusing her to the public not forgiving Casey Anthony is a bad analogy. It would be Caylee who would have to forgive her mother, not the public for this to be a valid analogy and being drugged, suffocated, and dragged out into a forest to be devoured by animals while her mother partied and competed in "hot body" contests kind of makes that an impossibility. Furthermore, while the new testament tells the story of Jesus and his forgiving ways, the old testament told us an eye for and eye... so I guess it really depends on which part of that book you want to quote to find your willingness to forgive.

    I believe Casey is guilty, and I believe her punishment starts now freed from jail to be persecuted by the public view. She will never get to stroll down a street or through a park on sunny day. In some ways, being free will prove to be worse than being in prison, because out here she is free to feel the wrath and condemnation of a public willing to impose the justice that the courts could not.

    If someone harms me, and I choose to forgive them... then so be it. But if someone harms an innocent child.... as a society we can not forgive such a heinous act because as a society with so many civil rot and corruption around us, we must protect our children and hold their innocence and beauty above all else.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  2. David

    He did not write an article of forgiveness for OJ Simpson nor for Michael Vick.

    Although forgiveness is a virtue, at the very least, one must CONFESS their crime first. Here the man wants us to forgive the pretty white woman when she hasn't even had the consideration of admitting guilt. Wow.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jessica

      I don't think race has anything to do with this issue, at all. I don't recall O.J Simpson or Michael Vick's convictions causing such an outrage that they may have to change their names and or appearance like this woman may need to due to death threats.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  3. alkalkfafah

    Nothing was done with the fact that she killed someone. She won in court so why don't we release Charles Mason, Scott Peterson and even the Unabomber from prison. Don't they deserve forgiveness?

    July 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • josh

      you are an idiot those other people were convicted...dork

      July 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jessica

      I think the author is trying to lessen the rage that the entire nation is feeling. She was found not guilty, and whether we like it or not is free to do as she pleases. Charles Manson and the others you were mentioned WERE convicted. I don't see your connection with freeing convicted murders because of forgiveness. I do believe that Casey Anthony does not deserve forgiveness. I believe for someone to be forgiven they need to take responsibility for their actions, which she clearly has not and I doubt ever will.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  4. John


    July 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Jon

      She will be living in her our HELL for the rest of her life.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  5. SammieB

    This writer is an utter moron. There is no "forgiving" child murderers and I think I'll do just fine with the anger I feel about Casey Anthony getting away with it. Forgiving such horrible acts of hate and wrongdoing is not the answer to everything. What will you suggest next – getting rid of our justice system altogether?

    Give me a break. This article is a joke.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • josh

      how do you know she did it? do you have evidence? and if you do why didnt you give it to the prosecution? they obviously could have used it since there case was so thin.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • SammieB

      Please learn the difference between they're, their, and there.

      Thank you.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • josh

      I will lear the difference when you learn about double jeopardy, hows that.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • josh

      damn my sticky n ...learn

      July 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  6. Name*Mr. Apples

    "Was there a need for creation? That was hiding in a math equation and that's this: Where do circles begin?" MM

    July 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. Shinea

    She killed her child. Period. Whether by actively murdering her, gave her to a stranger and doing nothing to find her, as she first claimed, or doing so accidentally so she could go out and party. She killed her child.

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

      casey killed her daugher and thats that God knows she did an so does she , she just wont ever admitt to it but you cant run from god your sins will fnd you out it will come back an bite you in the ass casey.an as for the rest of us here in h great usa we won't forget anytime soon see you in court on tuesday court order ,casey , I pray uried the hour the verit was read , like i said god nows all.for the truth to come out for caleey its her i feel for, an god let lightin hit the tree where she was b

      July 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  8. yeahright

    I believe... Forgiveness is good for your mental health, HOWEVER, forgiving TOO SOON is not a good thing either. One should go through the emotions of hate and anger (without acting out on them illegally, of course) just to experience the true emotion of the situation first. To truncate the full experience by forgiving right away will make it likely that the forgiveness will not truly last.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  9. Matt

    I'm just tired of everyone acting like they know Caylee personally and complaining how she'll never come back. The system has said Casey is innocent, perhaps she is not, perhaps she is a sociopath, or was involved in some kind of situation, or was on drugs, or who knows what.... But, prosecution failed here. Not defense. It is the job of prosecution to present a reasonable and fully explained motive + proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We should be thankful we live in the US and not Italy where you can get arrested by completely far-fetched satanic ritual theories like Amanda Knox.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Christine

      I I could not agree more! It is time for Nancy Grace and the media talking heads to stop trying to convict her even after a jury has found her not guilty. The hatred fueled by the media, especially Nancy Grace will not bring back a little girl, it will not heal, it will not change the outcome. It is time to move on.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  10. Lapidus

    The system has failed, just as in opposite cases of unjust conviction. Regardless of what people are thinking,the case is far from over. New evidence may shed new light and the DA may get a new trial. I'm looking forward to at least a decade of truth-finding 'trials' and journalist/detectives in the media. The OJ Simpson case had an aspect of adultery and rage, this may be the reason for its fading from collective memory. Here, an innocent kid was murdered under conditions of negligence, alive and even in death. No more partying, that would be my message to the former suspect. Forgiving by us. as a third party. would be senseless and even ridiculous.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • josh

      you are wrong there can never be a new trial. even if they do find more evidence. it was not a mistrial she was acquitted that means the prosecution will never have another shot at her. Like it or not thats just the way it goes.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • SammieB

      No Josh. You are wrong. There can be a new trial if new evidence is found.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • josh

      if you are acquitted you can never be tried for the same crime again look it up, double jeopardy.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • RM

      No Sammie, no new trial. Ever. Even if she confessed, she cannot be retried for the murder of her daughter. It's called double jeopardy. She was tried and acquitted. That's it.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  11. Joseph Stalin

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–7bemJNeG4&version=3&hl=en_US%5D

    July 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  12. Joseph Stalin

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–7bemJNeG4&w=560&h=349%5D

    July 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Rod C. Venger

    Justice is not just about the victim. Justice is about determining the truth. In this case the jury determined that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that Casey killed her daughter Caylee. Justice was served in the eyes of the law. Those still screaming about getting justice for Caylee, I suggest that she's gotten it already. Casey knows the truth. Caylee knows the truth. God knows the truth too. Did the jury? They say so. Had Casey been convicted, and she'd not done it, where would the justice be for Caylee then? The system worked whether we agree with the outcome or not. The prosecution failed to makes it's case yet no one is screaming for their failure. How is that? I think a lot of people need to get a grip, let it go and let Casey get on with her life as best she can. In the end, God will mete out His justice in this matter. Whether that has anything to do with Casey, only the 3 of them, God, Caylee and Casey, know for sure.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • josh

      aside from your remarks about god, I agree with you.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  14. andy vranich

    There is a definite disconnect between forgiveness and some sort of punishment for terrible crimes that little girl did NOT kill herself there's not been even the slightest hint of anybody else involved yet she goes free.SURE we will forgive her after she has some consequences for the heinious crime she committed and you bleeding hearts have a tendency to feel sorry for the criminal and not the VICTIM nes pas ANDY

    July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jared Roussel

      Here's a concept: more suffering doubles the suffering that took place. In any way that Caylee died, it was not pleasant, so why would we want to continue on that chain by seeing Casey be "off with her head".

      July 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  15. Shinea

    It's not for us to "forgive" anything. The only one who has that right is dead.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  16. Alex

    She clearly killed her child.
    Justice fail.
    She is the white OJ

    July 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • SammieB

      But OJ didn't kill a completely innocent 2 year old. And to be honest, I don't think he ever could. She is worse than OJ.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  17. Jp

    She was acquitted..it does not mean she is innocent..the jury claimed they did not have enough evidence....There is no forgiveness for a stone cold psychopath..and that is what she is....she will do it again..she has tasted her first kill anf got away with it...may God have mercy on the next child, not on this remorseless killer

    July 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  18. Dan

    I love how everyone is so quick to judge. Nothing was proven. Everyone is so quick to rush to judgement on a pure basis of speculation. Nobody is willing to forgive or show compassion which is what the bible preaches, yet many of these people call themselves Christians. Funny how religion gets pushed aside when its just easier not to follow it.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Alex

      srsly she did it.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Thats because religion is a joke. Religion contradicts itself and is also a trillion dollar a yr business. She was found "Not Guilty"....so therefor she is innocent....ya'll need to grow up and face reality and stop believing all that false crap ya hear on the news and that fake book the bible. Religion is about controling the population and thats it....

      July 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • SammieB

      QUICK TO JUDGE? Are you kidding? This happened YEARS ago. We heard the ridiculous stories she made up and crazy excuses.

      You are bananas. No person with a brain thinks she's innocent. This jury just felt that there wasn't enough evidence to convict her.

      No two ways about it. She is 100% GUILTY.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  19. morgan painter

    People need to put this behind them. Hatred is like a cancer that eats at you from the inside.

    I am certain the hatred is stemming from the fact that she lied about Caylees whereabouts after the child was missing for 30 days. No loving mother could do that and on top of it to go out partying and carrying on. People who care about innocent children see Caseys behavior as an affront to them. It is flagrant and insulting.

    Casey either murdered or helped cover up for the person who murdered Caylee, or if it was an accident her behavior was STILL totally insulting to anyone with conscience.

    Florida justice may still bring charges of child neglect for the time Caylee was unaccounted for. If parents can be prosecuted for leaving a child in a car, surely they can also be prosecuted for failing to report the child missing. That is neglect and I am certain any jury would find guilty on that charge because there IS proof of that. The lies told to law enforcement should be all any jury would need to find guilty on that charge. I think FL justice went too big on the charges of murder. They should have concentrated on the neglect and locked her up.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Shinea

      "Hate" comes from KNOWING that this woman partied for weeks when she was well aware that her child was dead. Whether she actually killed her or not, only a soulless monster could do that. That monster is what we hate.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  20. Nifkin

    Casey, I know you just got out of prison and all but I think we should go out. I like going to the pool, excessive partying, and long walks in the forest. I really think we'd be perfect together so call me.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:45 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.