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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. JimInTX

    Attractive people are innocent. Those pouty lips said she should have never been jailed.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Atheist2

      So right, Jimin! That's how this entirely exaggerated case began. If Casey had been obese or something, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Don Quixie

    I am willing to wager most of the Casey haters call themselves "Christians." I guess they skipped over the part about forgiveness, and "Lovintg your enemies." ANd "Judge not lest you be judged." Or "Forgive us our trerspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Unless these people saw Casey Anthony kill Caylee, or if they can show me some plausible physical evidence tying Casey to it, they really ought to get a life.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      my thoughts exactly!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • rpeti

      ok, let's just say that she did not kill her daughter or having anything to do with it.....please explain to me how a mother could wait so long to report her daughter missing and be out partying and getting tattoos. If nothing else she is guilty of negligence, and that is what most people are having a problem with. her lack of remorse.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      no one owes you an explanation....

      July 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  3. Marcus

    Well at least her butt looked good walking out...

    July 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  4. sarah

    Of course I would say, "please forgive me"...but that's the problem. Those words have never and will never be spoken by CMA. She lies to the point of believing her own lies. So when she begs for forgiveness, then maybe I'll finally be able to redirect my anger. But until then......

    July 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  5. Anony1

    You can only forgive someone of they admit they were wrong them themselves/acknowledges their wrong. And they would mean Casey has to take the 1st step.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Bobby

    It is impossible to forgive a person that knew her daughter was dead, knew she was not buried in a dignified fashion, and will now make millions over the death of a defenless child. It is impossible to forgive jurors that find her innocent of all charges and then take compensation for "telling their story." This is the US at its very worst, where money is more important than anything else.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Rational Think

      Sweetheart, what guts the jury had to weigh the evidence and reach a conclusion that it knew would be very unpopular. Imagine a justice system in which the will of the public dictates who has broken what law. Let's extend your preferences. Public opinion is now law...and who wins there? Go think for 5 seconds about how inane your comment is, and then come back to me. I know you are not able to think rationally about an emotional issue, but you want to crucify the jury for doing its job? You and people like you simply should not be allowed to vote.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. Don Quixie

    THe coverage of this by Headline News and Nancy Grace, and her team of "experts" has to be the biggest case of trash journalism ever. Not only that they are putting a target on Casey Anthony's back. Did you see that Velez women running after the van? "Is that her, is that her?" I am embarassed for the network Ted Turner started.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      I agree. Poor Velez and Nancy Grace. They get off on their venom and ignorance! TV cameras is their passion. The whole media is constantly feeding the thirsty mobs with everything they can to stir up hate. It's like watching a pack of hungry dogs fighting over bones, sadly it's a child's bones they are hungry for.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • john car

      but you watched it obviously

      July 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Charlene

      I totally agree with you .... we need to move on .... leave the "hatred" in the garbage where it belongs ... we have a much bigger job to do .... take care of our own .... Jesus said "he who is without sin, may cast the first stone" so who out in this world could possibly cast the first stone. Whether I think she should have been found "guily or not" is of no significence, I was not there when "precious Caylee died" nor was I on the jury ... I did watch a good portion of the trial on In Session and I could not see any real evidence of guilt. Sorry "Haters" but my prayers are that our heavenly Father will give us peace withing ourselves and remove "hatred" from our emotions. just and FYI ... I have a beautiful 1 1/2 year old granddaughter (as well as 3 other granddaughters & 3 grandsons and 3 great grandchildren) and the thought that "anyone" would harm her(or any of my other grandchildend) would definitely make me go after them.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Jeanie

    the only person who can forgive a 'wrongdoing' is the one who was done wrong to. The woman you spoke of had a perfect right to forgive FOR HERSELF. But not for a single other person affected by the Nazi's. WE cannot forgive Casey. The only one who could was Caylee, the one wrong was done to. And she is dead. If anbody else (you, Patrick Wanis) talk about you or anyone else forgiving Casey, you are being exceedingly arrogant, claiming a right you do not have.

    There's a young woman in Africa, married off at age 9, pregnant and in labor at barely 12 who ended up with a dead baby after a weeks labor and with internal damage caused by being too little to give birth, which caused her to continually leak urine and feces. She was thrown out by her husband and beaten by her father. Eventually she made her way to the only hospital in Ethiopia which treats her condition and was partially cured. At 17, she doesn't dare go home and lives at the local orphanage caring for small children. This young woman is the only one who can forgive her father and husband..if she so chooses. Wouldn't you agree it would be arrogant to say YOU forgive them? What do you have to do with anything? You are not in the picture at all. The same is true here.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Zena

      Amen.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  9. David

    Just because a person is acquitted doesn't mean they are innocent..

    July 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  10. taz8it

    It is less than a perfect system. I will agree that justice seems to have not been done. I travel the world and see where many other systems are swayed completely the other way. "Reasonable Doubt" and our rights of freedom make us who we are. The issue was the state of Florida did not prove their case. I have more issue with them not doing their job...

    July 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  11. Sandra Blackford

    Whether or not we "forgive" Casey, we need to remember the other family members who have been so torn apart by her actions. On a personal level, I would have found Casey guilty of a lesser charge, even though I feel she killed her daughter. They were hampered by the lack of tangible evidence. The time lapse from her death to being found in a wet swamp did not allow the state to have the exact evidence they needed to convict. I was and still am sad about her acquittal, but we cannot change it. Casey will have to live with her own demons and while free, she is not free from living each day with this hanging over her head. That will be her problem, not ours. My heart right now goes out to her parents and brother. Just seeing Cindy bent over with grief and George with his own pain warrents our support. I am a grandmother and just spent a wonderful week with my two grandsons, 8 and 5. I cannot even imagine losing them in any way, let alone Caylee's fate. To Casey, I would say, now it the time to look at your life and honor Caylee by making your life account for something and really turn it around. I have my doubts that Casey can do this, but she is the one who will have to answer for her actions in the end.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  12. HappyToday

    True indeed. It's not in my power to forgive Casey for what she may or may have not done. I think the article fails to mention that most of the anger comes from the fact that she will be making money from it. As if walking free is't enough! People regardless about how you feel about the outcome of the trial, please boycott everything that may help this woman make money! Do the right thing and don't promote crimes.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  13. leslie holliday

    I find it amazing that with the help of the media, that a person is guilty before trial and even when acquitted they r still guilty. no one knows what really went on. yet casey was arrested. the public outcry about her treatment of her parents, what have they done to her in her life? like it or not casey has lost a child. the death of a child is the deepest most painful thing a mother can experience. my son died this year more pain than anyone should have. what if casey had nothing to do with Caylee's death? when we see someone who is in some awful experience during criticism of otheres i always say there but for the grace of God goes I. I miss the days when the news media reported the news and left out their opinions and rants. don't think i care about the opinions of them. just want the news!!

    July 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jsl

      Very sorry about your son but question when he passed did you go out and party and dance and get a tatoo. Casey had 31 days to mourn and I believe the thought never crossed her mind.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Ted Oldham

    I cannot believe you even have the nerve to write this article.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  15. Ruby

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4LGfIXqDB8&w=640&h=360]

    July 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Kevin

    why the hell did she get off not guilty?

    July 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  17. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Forgive her for what? If she is not guilty of a crime, there is nothing to forgive her for....right?

    July 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. JOANN

    BRING HER TO TN WE WILL LET HER CHOOSE HER JUSTICE

    REGULAR OR EXTRA CRISPY.

    THE ELECTRIC CHAIR IS WAITING

    July 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  19. Michael

    As a therapist, I must say Mr. Wanis is acting outside his scope of practice; that commenting about ethical, moral and religious matters, especially in the popular press would seem to me to represent a serious, possibly actionable, display of poor professional judgment. Such matters can be considered in the press as a citizen, but not under the rubric ones professional status.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • GrammarGod

      I agree 100%. And he is a poser. If you look at his picture, you can see him touching his hand to his chin. Creeeeeepy.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  20. Charlene

    We all have our opinions ... none of us truly know for sure ... the media is like a "dog with a bone" ... if the court won't give her death, we will keep this going until someone crazed person out there "kills her" and then the media will have a "new bone to chew on" Like it or not she was found "not guilty" . All of the protestors are showing "children" that it is ok to "hate & persecute" if you don't agree with the verdict. People need to get a grip on their own lives and move on. All the protesting in the world will not change this verdict. The signs saying "not to buy her book etc" is so ridiculous...those protestors will be the first ones in line to buy any book and to watch any movies. Jane Velez-Mitchell & Nancy Grace are worse than "war mongers"... they have done everything in their power to continue this "stupid vendetta" People get over it and do something "good for a change"

    July 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jsl

      No Charlene it will be people like you in line to buy her book. She was found not guilty but she was not found innocent there is a big difference. Yes tell your children that the court is not always right and our system is not always right and they have a voice. No violence but they have a right to protest against things they do not accept. Why are you watching Jane and Nancy if they are responsible for Casey disposing of her two year old. Watch the cartoon network. I myself am sick of her and sick of people like you making excuses for her. I am a mother and if my children go missing while in my care I would move heaven and earth to find them or the person responsible. I would take a bullet for them and if an accident took them from me I would be way too upset to go out and dance and party and get a tatoo. I most likely would be in my room thinking about not living without them but that's just me.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Charlene

      Jsl ... it is people like you that continue to "feed hate" ... I am not making excuses for her ... I am a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and I would never have waiting to report a "missing child" .. I never said she was "innocent" I said "not guility" ... I do not watch Nancy Grace or Jane Velez-Mitchell, but I have seen the "hatred" they spew in commercials. Unlike you, no one made me "Judge, juror or executor" .... if hatred did any good, then yes I might jump on the bandwagon, but it doesn't help anyone, ever the person who hates....concentrate on doing good things in ones own lives and do your civic duty if called upon. ... that doesn't mean finding someone guilty because the Nancy Grace's and haters say so. Do I believe she is guilty? .... I watched "In Session" and whether you like the jurors verdict or my feelings doesn't really matter. How anyone could have taken "anyones' live is beyond my understanding ... but I am not God and therefore I must hope that the right verdict was given. Am I going to let "anger & hatred" cause me to hurt myself ... absolutely not .... We as a country needs to concentrate on making things better ... since none of us are directly connected to this "tradegy" we need to ask our heavenly Father to give us peace within ourselves and move on.

      July 17, 2011 at 4:42 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.