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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. Lewy

    The public and the media need to hound this woman 24/365 for the remainder of her worthless life.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Yeah, and it'll keep the public distracted while they're robbed blind by the Republicans.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  2. WesH

    Casey Anthony didn't do anything wrong. There's no way to prove she did. Sorry people, you're going to have to deal with it.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Kealia

      Casey did nothing wrong? Apparently it's ok to not report your daughter missing for 31 days and party during that time. Hmm...

      July 17, 2011 at 1:55 am |
  3. Tom

    I think some folks may have missed the point. Forgiveness is something done to make yourself better able to accept what has happened. What has happened cannot be undone. Casey Anthony is not the beneficiary of your forgiveness. In all probability she does not even know you.This is sort of a reverse "do under to others as you would have them do to yourself". In this case you have to forgive someone to experience the joy of forgiveness yourself. I would bet that Jesus had a little smile of satisfaction when he said "Father forgive them" about those who hung him on a cross. Forgiveness just has a nice feeling to it.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  4. Cry me a river

    "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?"

    Did you say this about OJ when he was acquitted? How about Robert Blake? I didn't think so. A murderer is a murderer. Go analyze yourself.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • J.W

      People didnt have the same reaction to the OJ or Robert Blake trial as to this one. I bet OJ didnt get any death threats.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  5. kumar

    To some extent justice would have been served, not entirely, if the judge had requested Casey Anthony to narrate what happened that lead to Caylee's death. She and her team put out a drowning story, at least, let her state it. She would have had to live with that. Now, the situation is that she did not even have to tell a lie to get free!

    July 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Jared

      Thats nice but forcing her to do that would be against the law and asking her to do that is the same as asking her to take the stand which she chose not to do. Changing laws on a whim so people who no relation to the case whatsoever can get closure will not have a positive impact on the overall operation of the justice system.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  6. Anna Maria

    In the news was a story of twin boys who drowned in their family pool. The mother called 911, and attempted resuscitation. She did not wait 31 days, blame a non-existent nanny and go out partying. Caylee's death was no accident. No parent puts their child in a plastic bag with duct tape on the face and disposes of the body in a swamp, unless that parent was complicit in the death of that child. Does anyone ever wonder if Caylee woke up after being chloroformed and duct taped? Does anyone wonder if she was awake, in terror, struggling to get out of that plastic bag in the trunk of her mother's car? Does anyone ever wonder if she cried and begged her mother with "I will be a good girl?" Does anyone ever wonder if this was not just murder but considering how the body was disposed of, if there was not torture involved? While I do not support the death penalty, everything in my being is screaming that Casey Anthony should not be a free woman.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Jared

      Then use everything in your being to find some evidence that she is guilty. How would you feel about spending the rest of your life in jail just because I felt with everything in my being that you were guilty? Feelings are not fact and can be manipulated. I want to put murders in jail as much as anyone else but putting innocent people in jail with them just to cover our bases is not right, is not moral and is just as much a crime against humanity as murder. A life spent in prison without just cause or due process is just as much murder as suffocating a person and throwing them in the swamp.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  7. Jason

    Forgiveness is difficult, but it is the right thing. Maybe this author is a liberal humanist only quoting Jesus to suit his own ends; but the fact remains, Jesus did indeed call on people to forgive their enemies. And, as the author points out, it was a lot harder for Eva Kor to forgive her tormentors than it would be for some internet news addicts to forgive a woman they have never even met.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • David

      Jason, remember, a lot of those who are "Bible believing" quote Scripture only to support their own points of view. Got nothing to do with liberal or conservative.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  8. inthenews2011

    Some people complained about Casey's fake or dry tears doing the trial. Did anyone notice her tears when she was found not guilty? Her emotions and tears seemed very reserved. She might be so broken with sadness, she simply can't express herself very well in the "sadness"area. I expected more wmotion from her. Just wondering..

    July 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Bazoing

      There is lots of emotion in the above picture, sullen resentment, that people were responding to her incessant lying.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  9. Cybersport

    So let;s just assume that if Nancy Grace says some is guilty that their guilty... Would save a lot of money on court costs.

    Do I think Casey Anthony had something to do with her daughter's death? Probably. Did the prosecution prove it's case? No.

    And far better that a guilty person go free than an innocent one be convicted.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jason

      Yeah, plus anyone who insists on constantly using the phrase "tot mom" doesn't have much credibility in my book.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Bazoing

      I agree completely, Nancy Grace is also a soulless piece of work. I find the way she shrieks and almost weeps disgusting, lets hope she does not have any children to torment.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  10. frank

    Forgiving Josef Mengele is–in its own way–just as disgusting as killing a child....

    July 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jason

      So, Eva Kor is as disgusting as a child murderer? Really?

      July 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  11. Mike

    Newsflash Patrick Wanis – There is nothing immoral about revenge or the desire for it. It's a human emotion. Who are you to think you know better than nature? There is no God, but there is godliness in holding someone's feet to the fire when they do wrong. Casey did wrong. Let her burn.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Atheist2

      What sort of godly font have you tapped into, Mike, instructing you to equate morality and human emotion? I think that frying Casey will do nothing but feed lynch mob lust. BTW, you don't know what wrong Casey did.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  12. Anna Maria

    When I commit a wrong action, or wrong speech, I acknowledge my wrongdoing. I search out the person to whom I caused pain. I look them in the eye, and acknowledge I have been wrong and have perpetrated a misdeed. After I acknowledge, I ask for forgiveness. I do not put a smirk on my face, raise my eyebrows, giggle and subtly flip off the individuals I harmed, nor do I seek to profit from my wrongdoing. Using the New Testament to manipulate people's feelings about Casey Anthony is just what it is...manipulating and Casey has been manipulating and orchestrating her will on her family, friends and society at large from the getgo. Somehow she always felt she was above the law (stealing money, checks, etc, etc, etc) and she found a few good spin doctors in her attorneys. One has to even wonder if that jury was a tainted jury. Why else would they have ignored what was common sense.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  13. Stephen

    "Forgiveness, what a concept!" – C.S. Lewis

    July 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  14. determined

    How many times have I heard what good would revenge do, or how could it help the victim. Just as it was stated in this case: "Even if Casey Anthony had been found guilty and were to be put to death, would that help Caylee or other living children? " Well for one, How about justice? How about seeing the person or persons responcible get punished for it? Are we then to forgive all those that commit crimes, act like nothing is wrong, and allow them to go unpunished? What does that solve? In my opinion, Nothing!

    July 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  15. Mike

    Patrick Wanis, you are astoundingly idiotic and need to be sterilized immediately to prevent future Wanai from diluting human intelligence.

    Casey Anthony, should absolutely NOT be forgiven. She did something – and I am man enough to admit, I don't know exactly what – but she absolutely, demonstrably, did SOMETHING that proves her moral compass is broken without the possibility of repair. Did she kill Caley? Probably, but I don't know that for a fact. However, what I do know for a fact, is that at a minimum, she covered up a murder or accidental death. She partied for a month, all the while knowing that her daughter had been murdered or accidentally killed. She told as many outrageous lies as she could think of and lead her friends, family, neighbors, and well-meaning strangers on a wild goose chase, searching for the supposedly kidnapped Caley.

    This is not a person that should be welcomed back into society. She is clearly broken. Maybe her family had something to do with it. I guarantee one or all of them were somehow complicit in the disappearance of Caley. However, I'm not going to waste my time figuring out "why" Casey Anthony is a monstrous human being. It's irrelevant. Maybe she is a victim, but she is also a MONSTER. WE DO NOT LET MONSTERS INTO OUR SOCIETY. WE DO NOT FORGIVE MONSTERS. PROTECTION OF EVERYONE ELSE IN SOCIETY MUST COME BEFORE REDEMPTION OF MONSTERS. SHE *MAY* BE INNOCENT OF KILLING HER DAUGHTER (DOUBTFUL), BUT SHE HAS PROVEN HERSELF A DANGEROUS HUMAN BEING. THE TRULY MORAL AMONG US WOULD SHOOT HER DEAD.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Sandra

      Right on the money Mike. Nancy Grace would be proud of you. I could not have stated my feelings any better. She truly is a human monster. I put her in the same cesspool as Susan Smith.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  16. Fred Goepfert

    Forgiveness??
    Forgive a murderess?
    Forgive a jury nullification?
    Forgive a smarmy defense attorney who should have faced contempt of court charges?
    Forgive and forget a dead 2 year old girl?
    The idiot who wrote this article is just another Liberal pseudo-intellect.
    A humanist who invokes Jesus to make a point.
    I wonder how forgiving he would be if his own daughter were killed.

    .

    July 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Fred thinks the L-Word is an insult.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  17. Anna Maria

    When a person expresses true remorse and sorrow for wrong actions or wrong speech, then forgiveness can pour freely out of the human heart. When a person shows no remorse, no willingness to accept accountability, lies, and draws innocent people into the lies, it is impossible to forgive. A sociopath does not manipulate people by people's discernment and strength. A sociopath manipulates, cons, and deceives people by the sympathy those people express to that sociopath. Casey Anthony and her legal team made a mockery of our justice system and they are taking delight in it. As one defense attorney so succinctly put it" "Caylee was taped, bagged and dumped in a swamp and then Casey went out boozing, screwing and tatooing". I will reserve forgiveness to one who expressly requests it and who demonstrates the sorrow for their wrongdoing.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  18. CM

    It is possible that she is not guilty just like it is possible that Santa is real (sorry to disappoint any tea party people). Casey Anthony is unquestionably guilty. The evidence was OVERWHELMING.

    Let's get a couple of things out of the way:

    -No I was not at the trial but we all have access to the same information
    -Yes it is possible that 12 people made the wrong decision even when the evidence was OVERWHELMING in support of guilt.

    If you believe that she is NOT guilty you MUST believe the drowning story. But if you DON'T believe the drowning story you MUST believe she is guilty.

    Is the drowning story even PLAUSIBLE? NO. There was not a shred of evidence that she drowned. People may resoond that there was not a shred of evidence that she was murdered or suffocated but there was:

    Evidence of Murder: A child is missing for 30 days and is found rotting in the woods.
    Evidence of Murder: Searches for neck breaking and chloroform

    The reason 12 people found her not guilty is because the standard for REASONABLE doubt has changed in the YouTube era. Also, people in FL are crazy.

    As to forgiveness give me a break. To be forgiven you have to admit what you have done. She is pure evil.

    July 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • whiplash

      If the jury found her guilty then they are nothing! But when they find her not guilty they become possible money naking machines in interviews and book deals.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Sandra

      CM, I see this case just as you do. I had been watching every minute of trial, with the exception of advertisment, from morning to night. It behooves me how 12 people could find her innocent when the prosecution presented overwhelming evidence of her guilt. A guilty person was found innocent and I find this to be an outrage. No, I cannot forgive nor condone the evil that was inflicted on one of "God's" innocent little children. What goes around will come around and eventually, Casey will meet her fate.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  19. tim

    what is this bs

    July 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  20. John

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

    July 16, 2011 at 9:39 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.