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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. Shelia

    WHAT...IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Who are YOU to form an Opinion of her? Are You God? Who are "You" to make this Judgement on Her? Did you hear all the Evidence? OR Were YOU JUST LISTENING to ALL THE TALKING HEADS on TV that had Already Convicted Her without the PROOF? Nancy went on 3 years about her guilt, yet she didn't know ALL THE FACTS in this CASE, Yet she and" YOU" can STILL Say SHE IS GUILTY? There IS SO MUCH MORE TO THIS, I KNOW IN MY HEART..GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!! LEAVE HER ALONE!!!!.... CLEAN YOUR CLOSET!!!!! ....LET GOD HANDLE THIS!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • sam

      I watched the entire trial and she is, without a doubt, guilty. My concern is that the jury did not want to convict this 5'2" attractive young woman. It is my concern that because the jurors could not "imagine" her killing her daughter, then in their minds, she didn't. It is my concern that someone not so attractive, not a 5"2" cutesy female who came to court in pastels with her hair pulled back would right now be most likely sitting on death row. Take a look at Scott Peterson – less evidence convicted him. And, just recently, there's the couple in Florida convicted of third degree murder because their snake killed their little child – they could serve up to 45 years in prison. They didn't hide the accident. They did the right thing and reported it. But, they may serve some serious time in jail. People were calling them ignorant fat pigs.... They were not cute, young, and attractive... I wonder....

      And, as far as people saying she was a great mom. There's lots of examples of great moms killing their children. In the town where I live, a great mom got up one morning and stabbed both of her beautiful, young children and their small dog to death. No one would had ever thought she was capable of doing that!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • JulienDUI

      There were channels with gavel to gavel coverage. I saw and heard every witness and evidence the jurors had. I heard it ALL.....and MORE.I didn't need to be swayed by commentators. That Ford girl said when they took a vote on manslaughter and she voted to convict.......it was 6-6. So,she tells us she heard and saw all the evidence and voted guilty on manslaughter. How did she come to the GUILTY verdict on manslaughter you ask? Because she was convinced the state proved that. Why did she flip flop you ask? She didn't have the guts to stick to her original decision.There wasn't any NEW evidence that changed her mind. If you don't have the guts to stick to YOUR decision....if you let some BIG MOUTHED juror bully you into thinking HIS way.....then you have no business serving on a criminal trial. I have served on 3 juries and each one had at least 1 juror who would do everything but threaten the other jurors with physical harm if you didn't agree with him. It wouldn't have mattered how much those 11 morons wanted me to change my vote.....how much they wanted to go home....how much they wanted me to disregard my common sense and evidence the state put on......we would still be sitting in that deliberation room calling each other names....and the murderer would still be locked up where she belongs.

      If this fool wants me to show foregiveness for poor ,poor Casey.....then he should be consistant and follow this article with another one asking the Jews and others to forgive Adolf Hitler.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  2. stonedwhitetrash

    Should I feel guilt for not hating Ms Anthony. I know that hatred can destroy a person from within

    July 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  3. Nunya

    Forgiveness is only granted to those who confess & repent. I don't see anything like that from Casey Anthony. I would forgive her like the Bible says (70×7 times), but she would have to do what she needs to do to get it. God knows & will be her ultimate judge, so she shouldn't worry about "our" forgiveness.

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

    No such thing as forgivement for Casey Anthony unless she would have taken the stand and maybe tell the truth for a change.
    For me at least it's very clear that she is a killer and the day will come when prison life might look good to her.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Moyra

      I agree with you. you can't forgive someone if they themselves refuse to admit their guilt. When she admits what she did to that precious child and asks for forgiveness, then and only then can that person be forgiven and the healing can begin.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  5. CK

    This was a well written article and well over due statement. Anger and violence will not cure any of this or Casey. Cindy Anthony must show forgiveness, patience, and love to her daughter. I believe many people forget that it could have been their daughter in all of this, which could lend a very different perspective. I believe spiritually we should seek prayer and forgiveness for all those involved – prayers of healing for Casey, Cindy, and the entire Anthony family. It is the only way and what Christian principle teaches us. What would Jesus do? I can most certainly know that he would not chant "Killer" and seek to cause harm to anyone.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • George

      What would Jesus do? Maybe not let her kill her daughter in the first place? Forgiving killers who walk free only encourages other killers. She deserves to be in jail. Shame on the State of Florida for screwing up a slam dunk case.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Acaraho

      To George: Jesus would prevent Casey from killing her daughter... are you for real? God gave us free will. Jesus would not intercede.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Nunya

      It's NOT "WWJD" with her, but rather WWJD with His child(ren)? He gave His life for us .., the only thing she sacrificed was her child for a good time, to spite her mother, etc. Jesus would say that she needs to confess & repent. But that is something she will have to deal with...

      July 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Moyra

      Does Jesus forgive our sins when we don't repent of them. No he does not. She must repent of what she did to that child first and take full responsibility for her actions. God tells us that we shall reap what we have sewn in life. And Casey will reap it before she leaves this world.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  6. Paul

    Many people in the USA are so uneducated they don't know the difference between justice and mob lynching ... actually they think the latter is justice. Well ... so much for being a leading country

    July 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  7. scott preszcator

    When a person takes another persons life their life is never the same God will punish you

    July 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • George

      For those waiting for god to punish her, get a clue. So god is going to let her kill her daughter and then get her later? Please. This argument is just dumb.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  8. Kate

    As a mother of four children, I cannot imagine my child disappearing and not reporting it for THIRTY DAYS. I don't care what the jury said – she is as GUILTY as sin. Period. Case closed.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  9. John

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

    July 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  10. julianpenrod

    As is so often the case, the argument relies heavily on the meaning of the terms being invoked. When talking about "freedom' for example, not everyone even seems to see that the same. Some define it as soulless, mindless personal licentiousness. Some say their "freedoms" include eliminating someone else's freedom. And even the Catholic Church has started touting the line that "freedom is not the ease to do as we wish, but the ability to do what we are reqired to do".

    Much the same for "forgiveness". Some say it is merely saying, "Oh, I don't care what you did! It's all okay! It's all alright! Don't even think about it!" For some, total "forgiveness" isn't mpossible until some action was taken to undo the damage done. You might be antagonistic to the individual who committed the crime, bu you don't have to say, "Everything's hunky dory!"

    In the case of American justice, it's required first to accept the will of the jury as final. And, as in the case of O.J. Simpson, it's the police and prosecution who are blamed for the result. You may not believe the verdict just, it may not be just, but you are required to act as if it were. And that is one place where one's definition of "forgiveness" can at least help to ameliorate the reaction to that requirement. Because it shgould be remembered that, even if justice was carried out to the extent of imprisonment or even the death penalty, the damage done would not be undone. At least one form of "forgiveness" would not be satisfied. In its own way, "forgiveness" may be meaningless, and acceptance is more what should be considered in many if not most cases.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  11. Adam

    ugh....yeah okay fine, I need to forgive her. But I still don't even know what she did exactly, I just know what I THINK she did, which makes it hard. I suppose I've been guilted into at least not wishing her ill. But man it's not gonna be fun...

    July 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  12. A Mother

    stacey12...Please go back to school, and soon!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  13. ted

    Lets see who is profiting from this case and the whole story?

    answer the news organizations just like CNN, Hey CNN how much did you make with your ratings being so high and many viewers watching?

    July 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  14. Reality

    Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  15. George

    This girl is a piece of garbage. Human filth. She obviously accidentally killed her daughter by using drugs to knock her out and duct tape to keep her quiet in case she woke up will she went out and did who knows what. The biggest travesty is that the prosecution wouldn't back off a murder 1 charge. The defense team called and they played it out in court. If they would had gone with a lesser charge they may have had themselves a conviction. Although a shorter term at least that which was right would have been formally stapled to her ass the rest of her life. Casey deserves no sympathy from us. She is a psycho criminal who will return to her ways of scamming and stealing and leeching off of others.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  16. James Quinn

    It is suppose to beChristian or Christ like to forgive. The problem with Christianity is as it's practiced today is it nothing like Jesus Christ or his life. Jesus lived with, administered, fed and healed the poor. The one time he met a rich person he derided the fellow and told him to give his wealth away then and only then could he join Jesus and have a hope of seeing heaven. Today Christians are all about the rich and have a real hatred for the poor. They want to hurt people and forgiveness is the furthest thing from their minds.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • George

      This comment is idiotic. How do you know what Jesus was about? Those stories are rehashed some 400 years later to help others gain power and wealth. Tired of the what would Jesus do. Obviously Jesus didn't give a rat's ass about Caylee, unless his plan for her was to suffer at the hands of a psycho mother. Please leave Jesus out of it because frankly it doesn't matter.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • kcbasher

      I know she did it. I know because no caring mother would do what she did. Know this Jesus had no hand in what choices that monster made. Casey decided that she was willing to trade her daughter for 31 days of freedom. Simply put, she sold her soul for just 31 days. God gave us all choices i.e. freewill. Even if it was a accident she put her daughter in harms way and then discarded her lifeless body like a old hamburger sack, thrown out of a car window. All human beings deserve more. Correct, she only has to answer to God and she will be judged just like the rest of us. For now I choose to shun her and if she comes anywhere near my child I have to right to protect my daughter from her. Her smile is not appropriate, I know women that have lost children and they can't be consoled. She has not grieved for anyone but herself, like one poster said on Facebook, "She made her bed hard (by lying every chance she could so that she could make sure that Caylee's body was never found or found like it was) now she has to lie in it. For you idiots that have no reasoning skills, she parked the car near the dumpster so that it could be destroyed because it STANK! That's why she abandoned the car and didn't let the owner's of the car (George and Cindy) that it was there so that they could go retrieve their property. This is what happens when you only have a high school education. As for that jury foreman I hope that when you go back to school all your kids boycott you and call for you to be fired. Obviouslly you care nothing about kids and should not be in the company of them.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  17. Storm

    There is no forgiveness for brutally killing one's own child. I don't think we are in a position to forgive, even if you want to. The victim paid the ultimate price. Its only Caylee who can forgive her. How can we call our country the greatest? Its a sad, shameful day in America. I hope the jurors realized how horrible their decision was. Unfortunately this also set precedence for future cases. Very very sad.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  18. scarecrow58

    For those concerned about the money she could make from this trial, I personally blame the media for creating this circus in the first place. I do not know how many people have been murdered in tthis country since 2008, but I would suspect that many child victims that we as a nation have never heard of are among them. Why was this case deemed so worthy of 24/7 coverage by so many news networks? The simple answer may be justice...but the more complex answer may be the revenue it created for the many news shows hosted by HLN and the public's insantionable desire to be "entertained" by homicide cases (both real life and fictional TV dramas). If the news media really wants justice for Caylee, then they shoulld donate every profit made from this trial to an abused children's charity of their choice. And instead of giving Jose and company millions of dollars for "her story" (and making millions in return), simply close the book on this case and move on.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  19. malinda

    forgiveness is reserved for the guilty......so did her lawyers put this story out to sway public sentiments???

    July 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  20. LuckyLaff7

    What goes around comes around. Watching her smug smiles after the verdict without even a thought of her beautiful 2 year old daughter’s death. It is obvious, she is guilty, and she will get what’s coming to her, I am awaiting the day to read on CNN about the death of Casey Anthony and see how the liberal reporters twist it into a sad sob story. Loll what a joke our justice system is, I fought for a nation that is becoming so brain washed by media and what is perceived to be glamour. I thought my ex wife was a she devil, no... This woman is the image of a succubus she devil.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:33 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.