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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. AntZ

    By asking for forgiveness Patrick Wanis demonstrates that, despite his credentials, he does not understand this case or its implications. Jews who forgave NAZI war criminals did so because the machine of bigotry and hatred was defeated. In Anthony's case, the machinery of systematic bigotry and hatred that led to her acquittal grows stronger every day. Feminist bigotry, whereby the crimes of women (but not men) "cry out of forgiveness" grows stronger with each well intentioned but deeply misguided denial.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • stacy12

      this isn't like the Jews forgiving the Nazi u moron the Nazis killed over 6million people and wasn't even proven she did anything

      July 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  2. bigboxes

    Nope. It's not up to me. She's done nothing to me. I believe she thinks she got away with murder. May her life be a living hell... well, until she arrives at the real thing.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Brian

    This palavering verbosity is what we call "psycho-babble." Reminds me of a saying they used to have in medical school: "Don't worry if you flunk calculus, you can always become a psychologist."

    July 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Fred

      Why forgive when anger feels so self-righteously delicious.

      Seriously, the writer of this piece has a great point.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  4. ron

    As Mama used to say, "It'll all come out in the wash." Mark my word, if she's guilty she will pay.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Sarah M.

      I suspect she's going to pay whether she is guilty or not. I hope she gets evaluated for mental illness, she doesn't look right in the head.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Agreed, Sarah. But people already dead inside don't really pay.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  5. Margrit from Marin County

    I could have forgiven her had she confessed and asked to be forgiven. As it stands, I shake my head at the American Justice system.. another O.J case. Her life will be miserable from now on. I don't have to add to that wishing bad things on her.
    I have drawn the line.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Margrit, actually the system worked fine. It's by far better to let a guilty person free than allow Nancy Grace to convict her.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  6. Willy4

    We don't have it in our power to forgive - she's not guilty of the charges but certainly not innocent!! Let the thoughts of her slain daughter haunt her for the rest of her life...

    July 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  7. JUSTICE!

    If you were walking down the street with a friend and a stranger approached you and struck you down and hurt you badly and your friend said to the stranger, "I forgive you for striking my friend down in the street.", how would you feel? You would say to your friend, "You have no right to forgive him. The offence was not against you. I was the injured party." You would be outraged and humiliated by this gesture of your friend. However, if your friend seized the stranger and held him for police for justice to be served, you would be happy and grateful. This article is insane in it's premise. We have no right to forgive Casey Anthony. Even her parents have NO RIGHT! Only Caylee and the God that made both of them can forgive or not forgive.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Liz

    I read this story and then checked the byline. Makes sense that it was written by a man. As a mother, I cannot fathom how she could have partied for 31 days, even if she knew her daughter's death was an accident. It is disgraceful and she will eventually have to pay for her behavior.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  9. florence

    Jesus said to not be deceived...if you had a small child that needed correction would you just ignore it and let the child do what it wanted and smile and approve if it were doing wrong? No of course not....would that make you unforgiving? NO

    July 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  10. Sherri

    First of all, Casey didn't confess to anything. She didn't testify in her own behalf. The prosecution overreached in their charges which is why she wasn't convicted of anything but lyning. Casey Anthony doesn't have anything to ask of forgiveness from me; she needs forgiveness from her God and from her family. This is not to say that I wasn't engrossed in this saga just as everyone else who loves children. She needs to ask the forgiveness of the people who invested their money and their time into trying to find the little girl, who it turns out wasn't missing at all, but was lying dead in some trash bags in a field. She owes those folks who participated in that effort an apology. Somehow I think though, they won't be willing to forgive. Are we looking at this concept of forgiveness through a Christian perspective? Remember, everyone may not subscribe to that persuasion, and therefore it may not matter to them. I am not in the seat of judgement, so I guess that puts me in a neutral standing. At any rate, I'm not the one who needs to forgive her. I do profess to be a Christian, so if it were required of me to forgive in line with scripture, I would have to, based on what the Book commands me. However, I digress, it is not up to me to forgive or to condemn.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  11. Eddie

    Punishment would send a message to others who might commit a similar crime. I want to be on the Jury of the person who gets MS Casey.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Atheist2

      You can't send messages to people who are already dead inside. You condone murder?

      July 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Ron

    To forgive her is to say it is okay this cute little girl was dumped like trash in a swamp. While her "mom" partied and drank, and laughed. Not me, no way, not possible. To forgive her would say I have no feelings for the child, and that would be a lie, (putting me in Casey's category of person, God forbid I become like her).

    July 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  13. Seahorse7

    Forgiveness....sure....just let the public know where to find this woman once she walks. They we will have an opportunity to find here and consider her "forgivenes".

    July 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Ooooh, macho, Seahorsie! You'd fit right in maybe in Iran.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  14. mfstout

    I have a sad feeling that Caylee, you know, the little girl who was murdered and dumped in a swamp while her mom partied and laughed the night away, might not agree.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Yeah, Caylee and Jesus are up in the heavens dodging balloons and scheming on a neck breaking for Tot Mom.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  15. Scott

    Oh come on CNN. You media folks and Nancy Grace pretty buried this woman in guilt back when this entire fiasco began, now you ask if people can forgive her or wonder why some of the public will never forgive her? You folks helped bury her and now you want to resurrect her? Boy,,anything for a buck! The media hardly knows anything about forgiveness, at least in the sense of real forgiveness. Some people in this country have no education and little ability to deduce facts from fantasy and the media knows this.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ms. K

      I believe in forgiveness yes but this article is only self serving. Some media are now, trying to turn this around so they can get an interview with this monster. DON'T BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DON'T YA KNOW, THIS IS NOW HER BUSINESS ALONG WITH HER ATTORNEYS TO PROFIT. I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL THEY ALL FADE AWAY.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • RaShonda

      Wow..you all may be right. It is kinda ironic that CNN would post articles on forgiveness after they fueled the public by letting everyone know all the grimey details of this horrific crime. I guess they would have to spin it around in order to get Casey Anthony to do an internview them. smh!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  16. mgreen

    I don't feel the need to forgive Casey because she has not harmed me. I realized on the day the verdict was read that I had to let it go, just drop it. She has to live with herself and maybe that, in the end, will be punishment enough. I do believe in forgiveness and at times it is just too hard for me to do so it remains a goal for me to get to. Just because I have forgiven someone does not mean I have forgotten. It means I am tired of carrying around all these negative rotting thoughts inside of me and I have decided to let them go. I have decided to let God handle my problems and given Him the reigns. My daughter was / is suffering the effects of medical malpractice. I hated the hospital & doctors who treated her and I have since decided not to hate anymore, I have not fully forgiven them either. I am getting a lawyer and praying for justice.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  17. Shane Kirk

    She'll burn in hell someday. Hope the rest of her life is filled with it as well.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Scott

      So you think she'll burn? What about you?

      July 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Sorry Shane. Hell's here on our earth. Casey may not burn. She's already dead inside.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  18. Bazoing

    So, Stephanie feels that Casey Anthony served God?

    July 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Swance

    Has anybody taken the time to blame the prosecution. After all, THEY are the ones who FAILED to make a case against this women. I firmly believe in our system of justice, INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I didn't follow this case because, quite franky, I didn't care.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Sherri

      Yes, I believe someone needs to ask for forgiveness to be forgiven.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Sherri

      And I believe that you are on point. The prosecution is to blame for the verdict because it was up to the State of Florida to make the case against her and to charge her with something that would stick. Lying was easy because she did it on tape. Hands down, no question. If they had charged her with reckless endangerment or child neglect, they could have made that stick on the strength of her not reporting the child missing for 31 days, that certainly would have been reckless and neglectful and putting the child in harms' way. But they did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she killed the child in the manner in which they laid out their case. Had they found a fingerprint that matched hers on the tape, they would have had a slam dunk case. But not one person came forward to testify that she abused or neglected the child. All the videos portaryed Casey as a loving mother, not a monster. No one saw her put the body in the ground, the trunk or anywhere else. You need concrete, irrefutable, solid evidence that ties the person back to the crime, not gut feelings, as in the court of public opinion that we the public tried this case. Yes we were all shocked at the verdict. But let the blame lie where it goes. The State of Florida did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt what it charged her with and that is the law.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Atheist2

      The prosecution isn't "to blame". They used the evidence at hand.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  20. rodney...

    John 8 2.[7] So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her...

    July 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Rachel

      Wha a stupid comment to make....

      July 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Scott

      @Rachel, how is that a stupid comment? If you have no clue as to what it means it clearly shows your ignorance and appalling lack of understanding of this world. I hope you don't procreate because we have enough problems already.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Neo

      Rachel it means rather than bent on revenge and mob action. you should just accept the verdict and move on. The prosecutors did not have enough evidence to send her the gas chamber. Get on with life!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Why would Scott have opinions about Rachel's procreation??? Really strange.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:56 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.