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. Lynn3765

    While I never believed Casey wuld be convicted on first degree, I was nearly certain she would be convicted of manslaughter. I don't htink the anger projected at this case is unjust. I also don't htink this is an idea of forgiveness but more of having, no matter how hard it is, to accept the verdict and let Casey get on with whatever life she will have. She isn't going into an easy time by any stretch of the imagination and even if she is free from prison bars, she is still in confinement if she can't move freely witout having to worry about someone doing something stupid. According to several articles she is stuck now in a safe house somewhere surrounded by body guards...so she went from prison gray to a slightly more upscale "prison" but she is still a prisoner.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Salmon99611

      Agreed. We are still an angry, retributive society. She will never live a normal life.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  2. One more thing

    If Casey Anthony is truly guilty, she will be forgiven if she accepts Jesus as her Savior and asks to be forgiven. If she truly wants Jesus to forgive her, He will, and she will have eternal life. The Bible is pretty clear about this. Those of you who claim to follow Christ yet promote absolute unforgiveness should take another look at what Christ commands:

    Matthew 18:21-35
    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

    God forgives those who forgive others.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  3. Daily

    My heart, completely broken over this story... I watched as the story of a beautiful baby girl unfolded on Nancy Grace 3 years ago.. Casey is GUILTY! But for some reason god has given Casey a second chance to do something with her life. Lets us forget that beautiful baby girl Caylee Marie Anthony or the many others who have lost their lives in cases like these..

    Rest in peace little Caylee Marie.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  4. pael

    I'll forgive her when she repents of her crime. God does not forgive unrepentant sinners, and neither should we.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • pael

      I take that back, I was wrong..God does forgive the unrepentant. Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifiying Him..to live like Jesus was should forgive this woman, though I admit it is a bitter pill to swallow. I will forgive her but in the end God will judge her. It is His to repay.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  5. Ryan

    this article is pure garbage–killing hailey all over again

    July 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Christine

      Shouldn't she be repentant before she is forgiven? I think that the reason people are reacting so strongly to her is because she personifies the sickness pervading our culture today. She is a narcissistic, self-involved brat with no redeeming qualities. She should have been sent to meet her Maker. There is absolutely a time for forgiveness, but this isn't it.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. twisted ideologies

    To those who always and routinely connect forigiving with religion, looks like religion is only about forgiving the evil and not about eliminating the evil. This is the twisted way of embracing the forgiving. Who the hell you are to forgive Casey Anthoney???? Only that ill fated child – Caylee reserves the right to forgive her (or NOT). No one else.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  7. Melissa

    Soooo... this idiot thinks we should forgive a murderer that got away with what she did. The answer is simply NO.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Moi

      She was acquitted, meaning she was found innocent. Why can't you accept that?

      July 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • twisted ideologies

      @Moi, think before you take sides. If you thin she was found innocent therefore – IS innocent then you are inadverantly being insensitive to the child if it really happend. To me, waiting for 30 days after her disappearance ALONE is LIVING PROOF that she somehow wanted her to be gone at LEAST on philiosophical level(things like "wound't it be nice if..") and based on that I certainly dont mind in thinking that she could have very well done it and outsmarted the law for now. Who knows, that couple of years from now, prosecution will find "new discoveries" in the case and she will be re-tried again?

      July 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Lynn3765

      No Moi...not guilty does not equal innocent. She was judged not guilty based upon the evidence presented.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @twisted ideologies

      As I understand it, she can 'never' be re-tried again. Do you know differently...?



      July 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Moi

      Being guilty of stupidity is not the same as being guilty of murder. It is very likely that girl died of drowning in the pool. Fearing that she would be accused of manslaughter either her or her parents decided to cover up by trying to disguise it as murder, it then backfired.
      If you look closely at the evidences you will find that she cannot be seen as a woman who did not love her daughter.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Lisa

    I had to read this article because it was shocking to me. I don't care about this woman. I care about the fact an innocent child doesn't get to live her life. Many children will not. With all the time, effort and money spent on this case, how many children could have had a safe place to sleep? A hot meal? A hug??? I will not forgive this woman, she doesn't want any one of us to forgive her, she wants her freedom. She got it. And to appeal her convictions for lying? Really? What I pray for is no one to buy her story, make her movie, or ask for interviews or any other way for her to gain financially. Totally disgusting.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  9. stevieboy

    Listening to every expert and newscaster, you wanted her to come out of jail, in a black mini dress,waving to the crowd and give interview's to all. No one knows what this woman is. Not Nancy Grace(You made her a millionaire) to spout her hate message. Instead of playing with your own kid's,you come with sign's and language, that is vile!! 12 people, your neighbors your friends your peers sat everday,they listened they looked into peoples eye's. Finally they realized you can't kill a person with no evidence. Someday you may be in a jury. Will you listen to Nancy Grace or what is said in court?

    July 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  10. Sammi

    My Heart Goes Out To Kaylee. But Casey Anthony Is NOT Guilty, Should Beable To Go With Her Life Like Everyone Else.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • jamshidy

      I agree with you 100%. However, unlike European . there are many narrow minded and idiot people in this country that they think they are God and they suppose to make judgment on behave of others. They don't have their own life and get involve with other people life. If they were really sincere they do something about other children that murder, abuse and dies not having food to eat. American get a life! The case is over and she is not guilty.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  11. TLB

    I dont think she got away with anything. Llooking over my shoulderfor the rest of my life, or living within the skin of a sociopath doesnt sound like much of a life to me. However, people should not spend their energy on hate. Dont forget, the media is in the business of making money, not honesty.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  12. Cindy Iverson

    I do have religion in my heart and believe in forgiveness, but I can't bring myself to forgive Casey Anthony. Someone who lies and sends her parents and brother down the river for her own selfish needs doesn't need my forgiveness–she needs God to forgive her. She didn't honor her parents, she liied to everyone including her parents and police. She better look at herself first before blaming everyone for what has happened. I just don't have it inside me to forgive her; I'm sorry. She should be sorry.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • jonathan

      Cindy as soon as you said in your heart you cannot bring yourself to forgive this Casey , your religion became void,.. did you not see that Eva Kor spoke up and said that she forgives all Nazis ..Do yo have any idea what all they did, not just to her, her family her race...
      unforgiveness is a sickness it should be treated as a disease..holding on to hatred of Casey does nothing to her; but it will cause only you pain in your own life..turn her loose......
      Unforgiveness is one of the greatest threats to the Church..

      July 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  13. MARJE

    While I would never think of doing harm to Casey, I would turn away from her. I would never be able to forgive her for what she did to that sweet innocent child. Anyway, she has to ask God for forgiveness. Then she has to ask Caylee. If anyone had hurt my children, I would want an eye for an eye for sure. I often wonder how these women who have had children murdered can be so forgiving. Good that they can, but it is just not in me.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • jonathan

      you prefer the eye for an eye? really???? over the blood of Jesus??? who cannot forgive your sins...because you cannot forgive Casey.. opps I just found something God cannot do..actually Jesus said it..God cannot forgive you if you cannot forgive others..please let him know as soon as you can forgive..so that he can do so likewise..while yo cannot forgive her for murder, God cannot forgive that little white lie you told or will tell of any little thing you do wrong..will Stop God

      July 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  14. Brian

    One scripture that the author failed to quote while only listing those that support his theory was Matthew 18:6
    "But whoso shall aoffend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
    Those are pretty tough words coming from the Prince of Peace, the Savoir, even Jesus the Christ. While it is important to forgive, the author does ask a question about how does her non-conviction affect living children? Well, she is still able to reproduce and has many more years left, this could very well happen again. Justice allows for society to keep its peace and keep those who are dangerous out of it.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • MARJE


      July 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • judith

      Perfectly spoken. She is a scourge on society and a threat to all children, and nothing says she can't have more and do this over. She has no conscience! She is a pathological liar. Forgiveness, please,, let God be the one to weigh that... our courts certainly let that baby down,, let society down and now every mother who does the same thing, and it does happen, can do it easier thinking she too will get away with it.... Forgiveness,,, let her rot in hell.. she is already dancing with the devil..

      July 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • TheTraveler

      Look to yourselves. You will not be her judge. Live your own lives, suffer your own hypocrisies and know that God will judge us all.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  15. jto

    verdict is done .. let iit be ... why are there still people protesting ,, why dont you go home and do something rather you are out on the street protesting of which nothing can be done ,, go home or go to work and be more productive,,its just a waste of time

    July 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  16. LouAz

    What nonsense ! Thou shall not kill, but if you do it is OK cause jeebus asked your god to forgive those that were about to crucify him ? Did your god answer ? You religious fanatics talk in circles as you keep passing the collection plate. You think you can have everything both ways. According to you anyone can do ANYTHING cause after death, your god may or may not forgive all their man made sins . . . you guys are just plain nuts !

    July 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  17. MikeKennedy

    SHE has to live with it. Not anyone else....

    July 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • alumette

      She is doomed. Where ever she goes people will know who she is. She has no education and she is a sociopath...lies, steals...cheats...not to mention the unspeakable. There is nothing positive for her in the future. She will ride out the waves and who knows how long she can float. I am sure the media will let us know. She will be under the scrutiny of the press for some time to come. No forgiveness only tolerance.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  18. Sammi

    My Heart Goes Out To Kaylee, But Casey Anthony Is Not Guilty, She Should Beable To Go On With Her Life Like Everyone Else.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • judith

      let her be your neighbor and baby sit your kids..... NO??????

      July 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Cindy

      She was found not guilty.... THAT DOESN'T MEAN INNOCENT!!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Moi

      The court found her not guilty so people should accept it as that. Being accused of a crime doesn't make you a criminal.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  19. Vivienne Badaboom

    A love story for bleeding heart liberals.

    July 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Chris6

    Mr Wanis, you are pathetic. Has religion driven all logic from your mind? Let's take forgiveness to it's ultimate end and forgive everybody. Set all of the prisoners free! No more police or courts, forgive everything! What a shame the allied forces could not forgive the Nazis, and just let them have Poland, France, Russia, etc. etc...

    July 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Melissa

      Great response, Chris!

      July 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Chris...
      Mr Wanis, you are pathetic. Has religion driven all logic from your mind?

      You Said: "Let's take forgiveness to it's ultimate end and forgive everybody. Set all of the prisoners free! No more police or courts, forgive everything! What a shame the allied forces could not forgive the Nazis, and just let them have Poland, France, Russia, etc. etc..."

      With a pinch of 'slippery slope' fallacy and a dash of 'argumentum ad absurdum' you have in a word -distorted- so much of what the author's points were.

      I think we both know that the author is 'not' advocating the "release all prisoners"... "no more police or courts"...etc... not to mention your bringing in WW 2.

      Hence, the slippery slope, argumentum ad absurdum.

      To suggest that by having us all ponder what it may mean to forgive... and how it affects 'us' as a poison, is a far cry from "releasing murderers, no more police, just forgive the nazi's and not fight... just let them have Poland, France, etc... yes...?

      Sometimes it is really importance to know the difference.

      This is one of those times.



      July 17, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Peace2All


      *sorry... left in the beginning of my post your comment..."Mr Wanis, you are pathetic. Has religion driven all logic from your mind?"

      Again, apologies... didn't mean to re-quote that in my original response to you. Should have been deleted.



      July 17, 2011 at 3:12 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.