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.
About this blog
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.
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Eva read a confession of guilt from the Doctor. Then she turned to the press and said that she forgave him. FIRST: She was able to forgive him FIFTY YEARS later! Fifty years from now....American People might be able to forgive Casey Anthony. SECOND: The Doctor took ownership of his GUILT! I wonder if Eva would have been able to "forgive" if the Dr. continued his act of innocence, So here you have: Forgiveness after 50 years and after a confession of guilt. I'm sure you meant well when you wrote your article....but, really? When Casey owns up to her actions....then you can write your article of forgiveness.
Revenge is a tool to teach others the consequences of commiting certain actions toward you. I say you should get justice then forgive.
Many people have the wrong idea about forgiveness. Extending forgiveness does not mean letting someone off scott free for what they have done. There are still consequences for the things that we do. Jesus extended forgiveness to the theif on the cross, but he didn't then set him free from his death sentence. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the receiver. If I choose to forgive someone who has hurt me, then I don't carry the bitterness and hate within me that can ruin my health and life. If I choose not to forgive, then I am saddled not only with that which has been done against me, but the bitterness, anger and resentment that can steal so much away from my life. I can forgive regardless of whether the other person is repentent or not. I am not sure forgiveness applies in this case because the crime was not committed against me however, the idea that I don't carry the hate and bitterness around, and use that energy to make life better for myself and others, definitely applies.
Good for you for pointing this out. Forgiveness is about the state of mind of the person forgiving; it's not intended to help the receiver, that is, unless the receiver wants forgiveness. In this case, there has been no demonstration of remorse or wanting to be forgiven, and outside of religion or our current day judicial system, we seem to forget that social law – society's expectations of behavior, is what shaped our great country. Social justice is just as important to punishment as is finding one 'guilty'. In fact, Casey's life outside of jail may provide her with the most justice over and above any prison sentence with a bunch of criminals like her, who think like her. In the real world, she will face the social persecution and isolation she deserves.
I think those jurors should be put on trial.
the jurors? how about the prosecution for doing a terrible job.
You said: "I think those jurors should be put on trial."
Yeah, they did a terrible job. They delivered a verdict. I guess we would charge them with not delivering the verdict you wanted...
The jurors did not do their job. How long did they deliberate? How long was the trial ? How many court records did they go through before the verdict was reached? What I wanted for a verdict has nothing to do with it. My guess is THEY wanted out of there.
This young lady does not need MY forgiveness; there is only One from whom she needs to seek it. Look heaven-ward Casey.
She's no lady!! I think the guy, Patrick Wanis, was the one carrying the homemade sign "Casey..will you marry me."
Ya, she was aquitted for "not guilty" verdict and we have to acept that. I only wish that whoever put baby Caylee through hell from being alive to skeletal remain in the trash dirty swamp, will go through exact the same steps, no more but no less.
Those of you who really and truly believe Casey is innocent are delusional. Nobody hides something like this unless they are guilty. She's not covering up for anybody. She took the opportunity to say ugly things about her father and brother...so she had the opportunity to expose the kiiller if it was someone other than herself. There may have not been enough hard evidence for some people, but nobody knows how Scott Peterson killed his wife, Laci, either, yet he's on death row. Casey Anthony will have to live with what she did for the rest of her life even if she's not in prison. Do I think that's enough? No. Do I hope she has a miserable life? Yes. I'm human...not divine....so I get to feel as I like about this. I don't need some bleeding heart therapist to tell me my feelings are wrong.
You said: "Those of you who really and truly believe Casey is innocent are delusional."
It doesn't matter what anyone "believes". A jury found Casey innocent. Understand? I doubt you do.
Why don't we ask Caylee if she forgives mommy? I'm sorry, but anyone that harms a child doesn't deserve forgiveness. As for the person who asked where Caylee's law was three years ago, face the facts. Code Adam, Amber Alert all came about, unfortunately, due to a death of a child. Even the jurors said, just because they found her not guilty doesn't mean she's innocent.
You said: "Why don't we ask Caylee if she forgives mommy? I'm sorry, but anyone that harms a child doesn't deserve forgiveness."
That may be true. But Casey was found not guilty by a jury.
LISTEN to the Caylee Anthony Memorial song. Please comment and subscribe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbiWLoAqgfQ
I think the most disturbing aspect of the people overly obsessed with this case is how they act as if they are so concerned with the welfare of Caylee. Do you know how many abused and unwanted children their are in this country. How about spending your time helping the ones who are alive and will actually benefit from your craziness.
This evil woman took a life and does not deserve a life of her own outside of a prision.
This writer is a moron and last time I checked, I didn't see any relation between this case and revolts in Egypt and uprisings in the Arab world. What a horrible comparison. Also, as a writer or journalist or whatever you want to call yourself...you need to learn to keep your opinion out of your news articles, smh at the editor who let this article post.
You're a moron for not understanding the article. Perhaps the only shocking thing about it to me is that none of you lynch mob members realize you have no idea what actually happened. Foolish, foolish ignorance – just keep acting like the animal you are.
maria---–the writer should keep his opinion out of the opinion section? are you on drugs?
What is irrational here is the desire for people to exact revenge on Casey Anthony without having any personal connection to her or the case, other than what the media has reported. Should Casey Anthony be forgiven? It's not up to us to decide. We are merely spectators.
Like in a Grimm's fairy tale, we need icons of evil to help reach our children right from wrong.
It's just great to forgive, but Casey is young and could become a parent again. At some point you have to weigh human suffering in your personal decision to forgive.
There are a lot of Casey Anthony types out there. She is definitely not alone in this country. Young people who have no direction and want to constantly drink and party. My daughter is career oriented. She is a successful nurse in California. We always stressed the importance of getting a good education and have a productive life. Try to give back to society. Those are our values. Many of her patients did not take care of themselves and find themselves in poor health. They abused drugs and alcohol. Also some of them never held jobs so they do not know how to properly conduct themselves. They used the system to support themselves and were never accountable to anyone. We have a significant segment of society that cannot support themselves and always need assistance. It could be as much as one third of our population.
Hopefully Playboy offers her a deal...
Not sure if you saw the Canadian radio station banner tow over the Orlando jail on Saturday http://hot899.com/inside.asp?mn=13&id=5726&f=1
Our system allows for the mistakes of jurors. It lets guilty people go free. That THEY let her go free does NOT mean she was not guilty; she lied enough to Jose for him to lie to the jurors and it worked. She was acquitted – but GUILTY AS HELL.
Exactly! The laws aren't there to protect the victim's rights but those of the criminals. Being a victim of an attack myself, the cops treated me as if I was doing something wrong. Oh yes, bad me. I was on my way to work when two men with a gun came up to rob me. Was justice ever served? As far as I know of, they never did catch them even with the detailed description I gave them but I can guarantee if they were caught, they got a slap on the wrist and were set free to do it again!
Some say leave her alone, that part I agree justice has been served this part dont agree, others as myself believe she is guilty and will always be guilty. do not know law procedures so I dont know if prosecuting side could have have two edge case first degree murder and gross child neglect. anyway they represented the facts connecting the dots very well, People in other countries see the truth. Its only the jury of 12 who make Bevis and Butthead look like Beethoven and Einstein. Casey wanted a party life so she performed a post birth abortion. Karma will catch up to her maybe with no friends anywhere, and what she did to her parents and brother, she may go nuts, then justice may be served for Caylee.
Are we supposed to frogive all murderers. I firmly believe she killed her baby and got off scot free. Why should she be forgiven for such vicious act?
You said: "Are we supposed to frogive all murderers. I firmly believe she killed her baby and got off scot free. Why should she be forgiven for such vicious act?"
She isn't being forgiven. She was found innocent. What don't you understand about that?
@ David –
She wasn't found "innocent"; she was found "not guilty". The jurors have already said they didn't find her innocent – they said they just didn't feel the evidence met the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement – I wonder as I see many of your posts "what you don't see or get about that"? As a society, we should be outraged – social justice and the beliefs of a majority are what shaped and continue to shape our country. Common sense didn't previal in this case and a guilty woman walks free – it's as outragouse as convicting an inccocent person and that happens too much – the guilty also walk free too much – it's part of our justice system, which is not perfect. To argue she is innocent is a far reach – common sense must tell you that – no one makes an accident look like murder – no mother goes 31 days without reporting her 2 year old baby missing and no abused daughter sits in jail telling her father what a great dad and grandfather he is if in fact he is an abuser – it's pretty simple common sense. Social justice is deserved in this situation – as much as social groups who help fight the fight to free the innocent – except this one can'd be undone. I hope even you get that, but, probably not.
Actually, the jury could not have found Casey "innocent". No jury could. Only not guilty. By voting not guilty, it can mean that they believe that she was innocent or that the state had not proven their case. A synonym for innocent, is not guilty. Hmm...
The jury decided the case. I think they made a good decision.
Did I miss something? Are you, Patrick Wanis, somehow comparing the situation of Casey Anthony to Eva Kor?
I JUST WANT TO KNOW DOES ANYONE HAVE A LIFE???? IT'S ALL ABOUT CASEY ANTHONY AND CAYLEE. WHY DON'T THEY LEAVE POOR CAYLEE ALONE AND LET HER REST IN PEACE. WHERE WAS CAYLEE'S LAW THREE (3) YEARS AGO WHEN HER REMAINS WERE FOUND ?PEOPLE ARE HYPOCRITE'S. THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. CASEY HAD A FAIR TRIAL. LEAVE IT ALONE. PEOPLE ARE JUST RUDE AND HAVE NO BRAIN'S. THE MEDIA SHOULD STOP WITH ALL THIS REPORTING ABOUT WHAT TIME SHE WAS RELEASED FROM JAIL ETC. MAYBE IF THE MEDIA STOPE'S THE PEOPLE WILL STOP ALSO. GIVE IT A REST. GOON TO THE NEXT HIGH PROFILE CASE. PS ALL OF A SUDDEN PEOPLE ARE GETTING SIGNS FROM CAYLEE??? DUMB, DUMB. CAN;T BELIEVE WHAT'S GOING ON. THAT BABY CAYLEE DESERVE'S TO REST IN PEACE AND KNOW ONE IS GIVEING HER THAT. THERE IS A GOD ABOVE AND IF CASEY HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH CAYLEE ALONE OR WITH OTHER PEOPLE SHE HAS TO ANSWER TO GOD NO ONE ELSE. I REST MY CASE
You know how you know if your smart and a have a life? If you believe that Justice will be carried out by an invisible man in the sky.
Your 'caps Lock' key is on. It's the one on the left that says 'caps lock'.
Well said, Jackie.....cases like this bring all the 'look at me; listen to me'. get over it, people. life goes on...