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

« Previous entry
soundoff (2,071 Responses)
  1. Sara

    I think most people react emotionally to the verdict missing the big picture. There should be some concern about the justice system that would allow a person who is probably a murderess to walk. However, that's something that should be studied unemotionally, and in the end, we should all focus on the big picture. Fine-tune the justice system, but don't condemn it altogether. In a democratic system, this is the only one that has been proven to work since there has been democracy. But don't do it while you are emotional.

    As for Casey Anthony, whether she is in jail or out, her life is probably over. She is already marginalized from society and will remain so. She is plagued by lawsuits and appeals. She therefore has two choices: the first one is to continue as she does. This is probably the one that she will choose given her personal limitations. Ostracized from good society, she is bound to self-destruct, much faster too than she would have been executed had she been convicted of her crimes and received the death penalty. People like that do. I challenge anyone of you to think of a single murderer who walked and led a productive, happy, and fulfilling life. Did Hitler? Did O.J.? In the grand scheme of things, this woman will be punished. And no, I don't foresee she will cash in and make money.

    Her other option is the really difficult one: she is young, she can try to redeem herself. There are precedents, including the Nazi doctor mentioned in Wanis's article. Somehow I don't think that she has the intellectual or emotional capacity to do that. But it is an option and there are always options...

    July 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  2. mom1994

    Our judical system found Casey NOT QUILTY

    July 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Wendy

      Totally agree, Casey was found innocent by a jury of her peers, everyone needs to move forward. Stop the hate..

      July 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Daniella

      Remember our Judicial System is not perfect, as history has shown. It was made up of imperfect humans like alol of us. Jury's don't always see everything so they don't always make the right decision.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Marty

      Then I guess that means there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with our judicial system

      July 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  3. NoPunIntended

    She does not need to be forgiven, because she did not do it. That is the finding of fact that the jury came to. She is INNOCENT and needs no forgiveness for anything.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Daniella

      I did not realize that you were with Casey Anthony on June 16. So tell us to whose custudy she transferred Caylee to that should be responsible for this crime?

      July 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Wendy

      Agree.... From the start I kept telling the mob lynching people, to wait until all evidence was presented.. Casey was found not guilty.. Everyone needs to move forward and get a life, leave her alone ...

      July 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • pmmarion

      she was found not guilty. She was NOT found innocent. Big difference. OJ was found not guilty but he sure as the dickens was not innocent.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • KHL

      Really? She needs to ask for forgiveness of failing to report her daughter missing, regardless if she was the cause of her death or not. Putting my own personal opinion aside as to if she is guilty or not, the matter of the fact is she went 31 days without making a peep about her daughter to anyone who could have helped. And then she proceeded to mislead police (hence why she was found GUILTY of those charges).

      July 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Rebecca Schwarz

      That is not true. She is not innocent, even the jurors have said that. Most of them, if not all, believed she was guilty (at least from those who have been interviewed), they didn't feel the prosecution gave them enough evidence. I disagree, they had more than enough evidence. Casey was the last one seen with Caylee, Casey's parents did not have access to the car, remember, Casey said she was in Jacksonville with the car, they believed her. Innocent is not the same as not guilty, ask any legal expert.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  4. pmmarion

    My only comment is: Where is Dexter when you need him?

    July 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  5. Daniella

    The only problem with this article, is that the woman named Eva, forgave because the doctors admitted their atrocities and were sorry. Casey has not told anyone what really happended, or as we all believe, she has not confessed. How can anyone forgive someone who is not sorry? That is the mystery we all wonder. God offers forgiveness once we realize our sin, repent and then ask him to forgive us. God also has told us we need to obey the laws of men, as long as they don't conflict with God's laws. That means that we need to be subject to the judicial system. Even if we repent to God of a serious crime, he would want us to report it and deal with the punishment. God forgives but he also says we reap what we sow. There are consequences that accompany our sins that cannot be avoided. There were some in the Bible that will not be afforded forgiveness from God. Those who have committed the unforgivable sin, i.e., Satan, Judas Iscariot etc.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Patrick Wanis PhD

      Eva brought with her a doctor who confessed his guilt but she also said: "In my own name, I forgive all Nazis." Eva therefore forgave everyone – not just those who confessed their guilt or who were repentant. When Jesus asked God to forgive his killers, they, too, were not repentant.

      July 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Lois

    Forgiveness goes both ways..When Anthony's mother came to see her at the jail, did she let her in?????????.......I will never buy a book, article or watch a Television show that has her benefiting from that....I am DONE with Anthony....The Lord will take care of her now.........

    July 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  7. ronnie

    I completley understand our justice system and how it works, and that's fine , but the anger that people are feeling is point blank this: With all that evidence that was presented it's like they where saying we know what the evidence is saying but please just act dumb!!!! like hey she did nothing, and be happy: I was powerwashing my back deck the other day and did not realize there was a bird nest under it, when it fell down i did all i could not to touch it and move it to saftey and they where fine, and when the mother bird came back shortly she was looking for here babies, and she was angry and she let me know it too by clawing onto my screen, and Hey!!!!!!! HINT HINT it did not take her 31 days to look for her nest and babies......... so that's nature and a natural instinct go figure!!! I almost told the bird to go find Jose Biaz and his defense team but the little birds were safe turned out okay. it's natural to look for your children if you care....... and IF you never did anything wrong take the witness stand........ case closed let's move on with our lives.................F;;;; CA

    July 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  8. jessica

    I think we find it hard to forgive Casey Anthony because we know if it had been one of us we would NOT have gotten off so easily.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  9. Julia

    Dr. Patrick: The world is a more beautiful place with you in it. God bless you for your courage to speak out on this matter.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    I WILL NOT read, watch, listen to or buy anything about Casey. As far as getting into Caseys mind, I would rather walk barefoot through a sewer.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  11. Chris

    "What if the thousands of angry people devoted that energy to helping mothers and children who have been abused or battered?"

    Amen. Amen. Too much anger & rage & fanatic idiocy have been devoted to one dead child whom nobody can bring back to life. Yes, the case is maddening. Yes, this should never have happened.

    So instead of devoting all your fanatic idiocy to laws that are gonna have more bad effects than good or to thoughts of revenge on someone who's been decided innocent in court, WORK TO PREVENT STUFF LIKE THIS FROM EVER HAPPENING AGAIN TO OTHER CHILDREN.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  12. Patrice

    Forgiveness does not mean miscarrying justice. Forgiveness is a personal issue, justice is an entirely different issue. This heroic woman may have forgiven the Nazis for what they did to her and her family, but that did not mean the Nazis that perpetrated these atrocities should not be brought to justice. I don't need to forgive Casey Anthony, because she did nothing personally to me; that is the province of those she has directly hurt. However, as a citizen, I can work to ensure that Ms. Anthony does not profit from her crime, and work through peaceful and legal means to work justice as part of a community (and that does not mean vigilante justice); it simply means trying to bring meaning out of what most of us believe was a senseless and atrocious miscarriage of justice.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Reader 49

      Well said.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Pretty good.


      July 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • cmcFL

      Well said, Patrice.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  13. cindy matteson

    God forgives, people don't~

    July 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Peace2All



      July 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. JulianCA

    The problem is that she hasn't shown remorse for either doing it (if she did) or particular distress at losing her daughter. She is sociopathic no matter how involved she was. Forgiveness is for someone who is sorry and/or distressed. The only thing she is sorry for was the inconvenience of first having a child, then of this trial. I'll respect the justice system and presume her innocence, but no forgiveness unless she shows remorse not for herself but for Caylee.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Stacey

      very well said. this is the heart of the matter with Casey Anthony. she lost a child and acts as though nothing bad has happened. very sociopathic.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  15. Lisa

    I agree with this article. I, too ,was emotionally invested in this case. I was outraged at the out come of the verdict but then I thought about that saying "Be careful what you wish for". Casey Anthony wished for freedom and she got it but I believe she is goint to wish she was back at that jail cell because I doubt she will enjoy her freedom. I do hope that God forgives her but this forgiveness wont come unless she confesses what she did. In my heart, I can only long for the day when she can come out and admit her guilt. When she can push her selfishness aside and for once think about the daughter who the only thing she wanted was to be loved by her mommy.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  16. Kris

    I don't need to forgive Casey. She is a very sick person and needs mental health help. I am angry that the jurors found her innocent, but it is not a vengeful anger or hate. The people who are acting like crazies with their revenge notions also have mental health issues. They should find out just why they are so hateful towards a person they do not know and so mournful over the death of someone they didn't know. I can understand hate, anger and loathing, but only to the degree that the person doesn't slip over the edge of sane behavior.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Geminigirl67

    I watch the news and I am filled with anger. I know that God would want me to forgive her and be the better person but I am struggling. I am not fascinated by Casey Anthony but am grief stricken when I see the photos and video, especially the one of her dancing in the little pink tutu dress or her singing You are My Sunshine. I truly weep. Maybe I am a too emotional being but I struggle to come to the terms that she will never see her first day of school, her sweet sixteen party, her graduation or experience her first love, her wedding day or even the love of her own child. And like the song, her mother took her sunshine away. I am afraid of the people who are caught up in more of the Casey Anthony Saga and forgetting about the one and only victim in this media circus. I am appalled that the jury came to their decision when she could have at least received some kind of sentence for her crime. And there was a crime, even just the treating of her child as a piece of trash and not honoring her death. I just hope Casey does not have the benefit of cashing in on her daughter's death and if so, I believe it to be her contract with the devil. If any punishmnet would be befitting would be that the world leaves her behind. She lives for attention and to give it to her is rewarding her. As hard as it is to not be vindictive, I will not give her what she wants. And let God be her judge.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  18. memyself&i

    I am glad I read this because I have been all over the casey case since day 1 & am very angry. I would like to try to just forget about it. Spend my days on this earth giving my 2 kids extra luv every second. If I can work it into my heart to forgive the evil I believe she commited it will be for myself not for her. Anger is powerful & it can take over, who wants to be drowned in anger all the time..no pun intended : / good article anyway thanks def something to consider.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Diggit

      There will never be any forgetting about this as long as HLN continues to cover it. And judging by today, it will never end.

      July 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  19. Jeff in Illinois

    Forgiveness? I don't even care about her. What has she done that requires forgiveness from ME?

    July 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Rebecca Schwarz

      Jeff, you are right, she does not need to ask for forgiveness from any of us, but she does owe her parents, brother and Caylee an apology for what she did to them. Unfortunately, Caylee is gone. Casey knows she did it and she will have to live with that. It is like the prosecution said, "If it was an accident, then why make it look like a murder." Just when she thinks she has that "Beautiful life" something is going to come smack her and she will realize what she has done. Only she can take responsibility, but we can sure boycott those who try to help make a profit on the death of her child.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. roatanmama

    Like OJ, as a result of her verdict, she now thinks she is above the law. She will likely be in the news, and behind bars again. Her life will be hell on earth.

    July 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53
« Previous entry
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.