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. RH

    She was found not guilty – what's to forgive? Anyway, if she was guilty and wanted forgiveness, it would be from her daughter, but she's dead – no forgiveness possible.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  2. debbie

    so you know the meaning of all lightening strikes now? you have a hotline to God or something?? Get over yourself.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  3. John


    July 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  4. john

    Fine, she probably was culpable in this sordid mess. But the last
    group of people that should be protesting are black woman. They
    have done an awful job of raising kids themselves[key word} as
    evidenced by the adults that are being set loose on society to create
    havoc. Please concentrate on you own backyard, as Casey Anthony
    is an exception to the rule. Your own people need a lot more help
    then for you to concentrate your efforts on this isolated case.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  5. Face

    Innocent until PROVEN guilty. She was not proven guilty so in my mind, and that of anyone else who believes in that principle, she is innocent. If the evidence was so overwhelming then the government would have and should have proven their case. The government failed to do so. Now she can never be tried again in state court for these charges. Upon release she should be treated like any other person. Unfortunately she won't because people form their own opinions of guilt or innocence based upon what they see and read – or don't see and read.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  6. ptbam(proud to be an american)

    No, I will not forgive her. She isn't worth the time or effort. Her punishment will be meted out eventually, when it isn't in the hands of twelve ignorant jurors with no concept of the law. Until then, I won't worry about her and what happens to her. I shall wait to hear about her downfall.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  7. frank

    The Prodigal Son was a worthless piece of shit, and they threw him a party when he came home. Come home, Casey! We love you! Come home!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  8. beans

    I hope some member of the defense team is reading. In 4 years all she has heard is your voices. When she walks down the street, to the store, even to church she is bound to run into a child. She will see the smiles and hear the laughter. She will see Caylee look a likes. She will long to hold that child or simply play for a moment and someone will pull that child from her because she didn't tell her story. She showed no love and love will shun her. All the jail time we couldn't give her she will acquire as she tries to live that normal life. Her part in the handling of the situation has brought her fate. Money and lawyers can't protect her mind. Her having another child will surely bring with it the face that so many wish they could have protected. Guilty of nothing should have been the verdict so she could have just walked away. Free yes, but her mind will never be free. In time perhaps she will heal but I see her only getting worse until she just takes her own life. She seems to be the most despised person on earth but she could walk up to me and I would do nothing to her and nothing for her. That is between her and her God. Right now that may be the only ONE she can trust.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • debbie

      wow – I guess you missed the entire point of this article. Stop keeping hate in your heart, it only turns your soul black. Things will sort themselves out the Casey the way they are suppose to – whatever you believe does not matter.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • CeeJay

      Unfortunately for Godless people like her, there will be no remorse, there will be no heartache. She cried out of joy and as a mockery to our justice system. Who else would have killed her, who else had a motive to kill her?! SHE obviously did because days after she was partying with her friends and getting tattoos, all of which she couldn't do if she had a child to take care of at all times. It was an out and to say her family had nothing to do with it is almost as bad as the outcome. DECAYED REMAINS WERE FOUND IN THE BACK OF HER CAR FOR GOD'S SAKE? I'm confused as to how much more evidence this jury needed?? There is a REASON why her family took 30 days to call the police and a reason why Anthony didn't even bother to notify police or neighbors that her F***ING child was missing. This article is disgusting and should be focusing on the flaws in our system and tempering with the jury...unbelievable.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • CeeJay

      Yeah Debbie, that's the housewife approach. Do nothing, say nothing. Please take you worthlessness to Sweden.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  9. Diane Lillie

    God loves Casey Anthony, as He loves you...and forgives you (when you ask Him) through belief in the sacrifice, the shed Blood, of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross – for all our sins...
    Everyone of us needs this forgiveness. How quick we are to judge others, but let us all search our own hearts before the Lord. Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. When we judge others, we are asking God to forgive us the same way we forgive others... something to ponder in our hearts.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  10. Anniecee

    I don't think forgiveness is actually a human right. The Biblical definition of forgiveness means that we don't even REMEMBER the wrong done, and that's not humanly possible. Only God can wipe a slate as clean as that.

    I do think we have an obligation to "let it go" and trust God for the outcome. In this case, that's what the public needs to do. She can even get plastic surgery but God will always know who she is, where she is, and what she's done. And sometimes, justice doesn't come in this lifetime. In fact, human justice is woefully inadequate, because even a lengthy conviction wouldn't have brought Caylee back. Nothing can bring Caylee back.

    So what does human justice actually accomplish, in ANY CASE, except getting bad humans out of the general population?

    I agree, it's bad to carry the bitterness around. I'm not sure we can really forgive. And I also think that our understanding of forgiveness is severely warped. The prophet told King David after he murdered Uriah: God forgives you. But the prophet also explained that along with the forgiveness would be a very severe punishment. We think that forgiveness means: NO PUNISHMENT but the Bible doesn't actually teach that. Sometimes God let people off the hook, but other times they really got slammed even AFTER they were forgiven. The important thing to note is that it's GOD who did the punishing.

    When it's out of our control, then it's up to God. There's a lot of relief in turning the whole thing over to Him and then just let it go from my own life.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Diane Lillie

      Anniecee, from your comment, I don't think you understand the amazing grace of God through His Son, Jesus. We cannot forgive in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, we can.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  11. topher1

    Hoping someone out there has the patience and discipline to wait 12 to 18 months for her to let her guard down. Then come for her in the night.....

    July 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Zious

    I believe in forgiveness but only in cases where the crime was committed in desperation and in conditions unbearable. Casey clearly killed her daughter to carry on a life of promiscuity and partying. She is a compulsive liar who has lied her way to freedom. There are hundreds of thousands of criminals who are in jail for petty crime not involving killing and go in for decades for their crimes. There are hundreds of thousands of criminals like the man who robbed the bank of a dollar to get health insurance that are worthy of being forgiven but to forgive Casey would be to promote willing and premeditated lies and murder. She should have been in jail and if I were one of the jurors I would have been the lone one to stall the foolishness and cause the case to go on for months. Its easier in America to get off with murder than to get off with theft. Is this what we have come to, a conscienceless society of immoral people? If that is the case then we should forgive all our criminals who are in jail. Remember most of them are in for petty crimes and not killings as was the case with Casey.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • SamuraiShonan

      If you are American and a true believer in the American legal system, then the outcome of the trial was fare. NOT GUILTY.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • debbie

      Clearly you were not there and you don't have a clue. Clearly you need to move on and let life sort itself out for Casey however it's meant to be. Clearly you have allowed this to darken your soul and need to ask for your own forgiveness for having such hatred.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  13. Melissa

    So does this mean we should forgive OJ simpson who was found not guilty but to this day the media continues to say he IS guilty??? Now we want forgiveness for this caucasian woman so she can go about her life?? There is always a sympathy spin when it comes to white convicts..NO forgiveness for this woman who lies like a demon...Where is the justice for Cayley Anthony...while her mother walks free!!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • stacy12


      July 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  14. Debbie

    The whole Casey Anthony situation is really a sad example of contemporary human nature. Whether she's guilty or not, people keep proving that humans have not evolved past the Salem witch trials of 1692. People of today think that they are so superior in their way of thinking and their reactions to situations, but they're really not much farther along than our cave dwelling ancestors. Most people are just self-righteous hypocrites. The only thing that keeps them from stoning to death or calling for the public hanging of the Casey Anthonys of the world is our laws.

    Why is everyone so focused on her anyway? Parents kill their kids everyday but their stories don't take over the cable news networks. People don't fight with each other just to get a seat in the courthouse nor do they stand outside of the courthouse with signs expressing their opinions about how "baby killers" should be put to death (picture the torch-carrying villagers promising death to Dr. Frankenstein's creation). Somehow this story was seized by the media, excessively reported and Casey Anthony was made a scapegoat for all the bad parents in the world. People are always looking for someone to hate. And who do people feel deserves more of their contempt than a "baby killer." The justification for their hatred is that this person took the life of someone so innocent who never even had a chance to grow up and experience life. But is that really what they care about? Is that what people who murder doctors who perform abortions and women who have abortions really feel? Or are they just looking for an excuse for hatred. It feels good to hate someone that they feel has done something so much worse than they have done. They can put their own shortcomings behind them.

    I'm sure that everyone who would like to see Casey Anthony dangling from a noose in the town square will read this as a pro-Casey statement, although it is merely an observation on the pitiful state of human nature and how a situation like this brings out the worst in human beings.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Remford

    The "case for forgiveness"? What the hell gives ANYBODY directly unrelated to her daughter or her daughter's death the presumption that they have anything to "forgive" in the first place? I've rarely seen so MANY people in so dire need of lives of their own to occupy their time. As America faces falling-off a financial cliff due to unrestrained spending, I'd love to see these folks' tax returns – and the contributions THEY make to society.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  16. Beverlee

    Her own parents don't want her to come home. She has a lot to be forgiven for.

    Mat 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
    Mat 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

    1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
    Rom 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
    Rom 10:11 For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
    Rom 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
    Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Diane Lillie

      We all have a lot to be forgiven for...

      July 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • stacy12


      July 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  17. vanessa

    I dont not have to forgive her ...that's up to God and God alone ...and after her verdict was read the tree where that little baby girl laid and rotted away with animals gnawing on her was struck by lightening was his message to her ...and we all witnessed it...you do not bring harn to others and not pay for it...and the children hold a special place with the Lord...she shall live as the Lord has planned for her ...she chose her path

    July 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Remford

      You don't have to "forgive" her, because you've no cause to believe yourself to be aggrieved to begin with. Get over yourself.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • littleriver2

      In about 3-4 years you'll be reading about her OD. You just can't kill and get by with it for life. If she has a soul, and some don't, it will drive her stark raving mad – so be it.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • jok3r

      but there is no god...

      July 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • debbie

      so you know the meaning of all lightening strikes now? you have a hotline to God or something?? Get over yourself.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Just for the record, those who belong to God, by faith in His Son Jesus Christ, DO HAVE what you call "hot line" to God! Not particular implying about the lightning by little girls grave.. but we who have come to God through Jesus Christ His Son do KNOW God, and have a relationship and also fellowship with Him!
      Those who have not come to God through Christ know no such thing, nor can they understand it!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  18. stacy12

    this is why she got found not guilty is becuz of crap like this and the talking heads of this country that cant seem to stay out of peoples business wait i got an idea why do u start selling tickets to people to a leave a comment fing losers

    July 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • xXAnonXx

      Your right here along side posting just the same, hypocrite.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  19. Atheist2

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

    July 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Meoshewu

    Hey Casey just move on with you life and be grateful. This wonderful American system of justice has given you another chance, so live free with out remorse. God Bless America.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • stacy12

      with out remorse im sure its eating at her every day and every second of her life so stop giving in to her money machine everybody is jus making her more famous with all the threats on her life like the other crack head beat up a woman that she says looked like casey anthony give me brake she was in jail when this woman did this to the other woman lmao

      July 17, 2011 at 6:07 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.