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. mark

    Is Patrick Wanis standing up for her?!!?

    July 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  2. Isolate

    Dr Wanis serves up a generous portion of the Loving God Happy Meal with a cloying Forgiveness Shake. I would direct his attention to the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, in which the genocides of the Hebrew people are loving recorded as being the will of Yahweh: "You shall not leave alive anything that breathes." The Hebrews practiced herem in God's name: the complete destruction of the Canaanite people and related tribes in the land they wanted to possess– men, women, children, livestock, growing crops, property, everything. Yahweh even throws a hissy fit whenever someone tries to swipe a souvenir or feels compassion for the livestock and demands the perpetrator be stoned on the spot.

    The New Testament is no better. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus is quoted as saying: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." The bloody history of the Christian church is witness to the fact that his later followers did just that.

    Casey Anthony knows what she did. She was legally acquitted, but she is not innocent. Her whole world centers around herself and always has. That sickening smirk in the courtroom when she learned that she had gotten away with murder is an image I will take to the grave. Now watch as she tries to bankroll this tragedy with book and movie deals and TV appearances. And watch for the new reality show, "Casey Anthony and OJ Search for the Real Killers." God help America.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Steven

    Let's not forget that a little girl has been brutally denied living by a woman who could care less. In this country there are laws against that. Only after a person has confessed their sin and is truely sorry for what they did can anyone expect others to forgive them.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  4. CaseyMeetOJ

    I expect CA to return to petty crime and eventually land in prison for life as a habitual offender.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  5. Connie Johnson

    Cindy knew Casey lied and was a theft. She liked to control Casey and put her down. I understand that, but what did Caylee do to Casey? Nothing but be a child. I believe Cindy use Caylee to control Casey and when you try to control a narcissistic individual then they will have a violent behavior as we have all seen in many of Casey's jail house video's. It must had been hell in that house for little Caylee when Casey and Cindy went to fighting and arguing. They said the night before Caylee was murdered by Cindy and Casey got into a big argument. This was the night Casey premeditated murdering Caylee. Casey had everything planned out for the next day that she was going to kill Caylee and how she was going to do it and this was knocking Caylee out with Chloroform and taping her nose and mouth shut. Casey had already stole Amy's check book , so she had that part of i"What she was going to do for money" so she would not have to rely on going back home to Cindy and George asking for money. She didn't ever want to go back home because Cindy and George would had asked a lot of Questions like "Where's Caylee? Casey drove down the road with Caylee and this was the last time anyone ever seen of Caylee. Casey premeditated this murder and now she is wanting to get rich from it.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  6. Zoe

    I'm tired of people being guilty in the court of public opinion. It's a recession and people want to stick their noses in other people's business and be the jury because they need a scapegoat for their own problems, and whoever is the flavor-of-the-month becomes it. You, people of the public, are not "experts" on any case just because you read tidbits about it in the National Enquirer and in a quick news recap. Juries vote the way they do for a reason, mostly they know facts and information you haven't been sitting there watching every day, instead people just get updates from pieces of media that have financial motives to slant the story any way they want for profit. Leave the judging to the jury, and go back to minding your own business, last time I checked the vast majority of you aren't legal experts. Besides, whether or not this woman is guilty, I'm sure she'll be hounded the rest of her life by the public convinced she was, so I'm sure she'll get punished whether it's justified or not.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Sandra

      This is the best COMMENT THAT I READ. THANK YOU

      July 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Well put, Zoe!

      July 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  7. Sunny

    Forgiveness is not about making Casey Anthony feel better, its about letting go of your need for revenge and hate. These emotions are more harmful to you then her. Forgiveness if for you. You dont have to forget this terrible that was done to this child.. use it for something productive and meaningful to honor and celebrate this child. God bless Caylee and all other lost childen.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Rachel

      I think Christians have a weird idea about forgiveness. If a person comes to you and says I have wronged you, please forgvie me, you should really try to forgive that person. However, if no one asks for forgiveness, there is no forgiveness to be granted. But, those feelings Christians talk about in terms of forgiveness I think are putting it the wrong way. You can process it, deal with it, come to terms with it, channel negative energy for good works like passing legislation etc. You can be at peace, not seek venegance but, forgiveness is another thing. Casey has not asked anyone's forgiveness. Who are we to forgive her??? How is that our right to do so? Forgiveness is between herself, her family and God.

      I do NOT forgive the Nazis for murdering members of my extended family. If he were to ask my forgiveness for murdering my family members then maybe I could. If a Nazi would come to be and ask forgiveness on the part of the Jewish people, I can not do that. It is not my right to forgive wrongs that were done to someone else. I do not represent the Jewish people. I am just one person. I do not live with hate. I am at peace. I do not believe in vengeance. But I don't forgive them and no one has ever asked.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  8. sereny

    She couldn't care less whether people forgive her or not.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Exactly, sereny.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  9. pablo

    After the ridiculous verdict. SHe removed her bun and let her hair down. PARTY TIME! !!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  10. pablo

    Some deeds are unforgivable. Baby killing is one of them. If she was innocent, she wouldn't have had to tell a thousand lies.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  11. GaLiberal

    Forgiveness? What is this nonsense. She has no reason to ask for forgiveness because she was tried and acquitted of the charges. It's time for people to put away their outrage and anger and get on with their own lives.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Donegal

      Forgiveness, your right. Why should she deserve it. She has shown no remorse or even grief for her dead daughter. Her acquital based on lack of evidence does not mean she is not quilty. Normally, forgiveness comes after a confession, an apology, or signs of remorse. There have been non from Casey Anthony. Even the most spiritual of Christians can shun such an act as forgiveness for this woman. People forget the scripture that speaks of entering a house that is unreceiving of the spirit that they should turn and walk out. Let her collect her daughters bones and cry over them and I will forgive her.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  12. mizsherle

    It will be easier to think forgiveness when we aren't bombarded by unavoidable, unwanted images of her ugly mug.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • J.W

      Ugly mug? What are you talking about. She is even prettier than Lady Gaga

      July 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Atheist2

      It's interesting that so many females think Casey is unattractive. We would be having this discussion if Casey were obese or something.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  13. Lauren

    Casey Anthony doesn't want forgiveness. She wants you to believe she's innocent. Also, the Nazi's were done killing people. Casey Anthony may have many more victims ahead in her future. How can you forgive her when she may not be finished??

    July 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  14. Derek

    The fact of the matter is she (don't want to use her name) was guilty. The jury seemed to think they needed a video of the crime or an eye witness to the crime to convict. She is Scott Peterson minus the death sentance. I think people could find it in their heart to forgive if they actually believed the person guilty of the crime wanted forgiveness or was sorry. She knows how her daughter died, but failed to give details of the incident...drowning in swimming pool...right! If that were the case you don't dump the body of your child on the side of the road and let it decompose. This whole think is sickening. Being a father of two beautiful children I can't fathom this, but I'm also not a sociopath as she obviously is and displayed in the court room following the verdict....smiling and laughing. She will have the rest of her life to think about what she did, but the blame will go toward someone/something else, poor childhood, strict parents, whatever she wants to drum up. It's very difficult to forgive when there is no justice for a murdered 3 year old baby girl....tought to swallow!

    July 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Frank

      Derek, while I too believe that Casey murdered her daughter it isn't our place to forgive. Only the person who was wronged can forgive. And in the end God will see that justice is served for he too knows the true story.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  15. GEORGE


    July 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Marmee

      Hey, George..

      You read the article and they made a comment, think maybe be you might be one of those fat Ameican's?...Just sayin.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Atheist2

      George, absolutely right! It takes no effort at all to hate in unison. The media (a la Nancy Grace) has snookered us. But check your caps lock!

      July 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  16. twinmomcville

    God can forgive her, and then I won't have to.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Leo

    Casey should be punished. that's is the reason why people are angry.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Punishment will do absolutely nothing to Casey. She seems already dead inside.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  18. Jeanie

    You talk about forgiving Casey so we don't have to have uncomfortable feelings. This strikes me as self-serving. "I don't want to feel uncomfortable feelings so no matter how a victim is treated, I (who was not personally involved nor injured) choose to 'forgive' the perpetrator so I don't have to have these feelings. I claim the right to forgive the perpetrator, the murdered, the child rapist, so I don't have to be uncomfortable by having feelings about it. We SHOULD be uncomfortable when horrific things are done!

    July 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ann

      Well said...if anyone should have the option to forgive, it should be Caylee and she doesn't have that chance anymore.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  19. Sda

    I don't agree with this verdict but I don't understand how people think it's right that we are the only civilized country in the world that kills it's own citizens as retribution, regardless of the act.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Exactly! Only here and in Iran.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Sda, I agree with having a death penalty but feel it should be reserved, mostly, for human predators who will continue to 'hunt' for more victims. The reason I think they should die is that human predators derive overwhelming gratification from reliving what they did to their hapless victims. I absolutely object to victims CONTINUING TO BE USED FOR PERSONAL GRATIFICATION by the predator for the rest of his life even if it's sent in prison. This is sooo wrong. I personally don't think Casey Anthony should have gotten the death penalty. I think THE best penalty would have been for her to remain in prison until she was older and no longer young and pretty. THAT would have been the worst thing for her.

      July 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  20. Don Quixie

    Uh Bobby,

    Do you know who got rich off the OJ Simpson case? PROSECUTORS Marcia Clark, and CHristopher Darden. They got multi million dollar book advances, as did Mark Furhman. Do you want to bet these prosecutors make money off Caylee's death? You will rush out and buy books that proclaim Casey "guilty." I'm sure Nancy Grace will get one out in a hurry.

    Nancy Grace has already made a fortune off the death of little Caylee.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Nancy Grace is the main winner so far. Probably will have to pay royalties to the person who invented "Tot Mom" for her.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:31 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.