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. mrknowitall

    What if she killed your 2 yr old daughter? Would you forgive her? For some people forgiveness is the best they can handle. Then there are people that revenge is the best medicine.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  2. thatscorrect

    Another thing that works well is to exercise, take care of your health, and when your enemies die go and p!$$ on their graves.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. KIm

    Please get this ridiculous, self-righteous article off CNN's homepage. It is rather insulting.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  4. FlagWavingPatriot

    There is no "justice" in America.

    FACT: the jury only gets to hear certain facts as decided by the lawyers and the judges.

    FACT: the jury can only decide which lawyer spews the best presentation. Its not about actual truth. Its about manipulating the jury.

    FACT: two people went to jail for disrupting the proceedings. One for flipping the bird to the DA & the other for verbal comments.

    So, then, why didn't the judge throw that dirty prosecutor into jail for intentionally snickering in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings / information to the jury by defense ?????????


    July 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  5. stephensB

    An article about forgiveness on CNN ??? Sister channel to HLN , the Nancy Grace Lynch Mob Moron channel ???? I'm thinking Patrick is going to lose his job .............
    You got to know NG is hoping and praying that one of her mental midgets is even now looking to take Anthony out , probably with info and location fed by NG .... she is bound and determined to suck every last $$$$$ out of this story she can .

    July 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Shelia

      I Agree with ALL you have said....

      July 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  6. Boogie Momma

    Geeesh, move on and mind your own business. Who cares, it doesnt directly impact any of you. Worry about our own life.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • John Marshall

      Agreed. CNN please take this stupid article off your homepage or I am officially moving to another news source. She killed her kid and got off. Why do we need to forgive her or hear about her?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  7. Reader 49

    Does she want forgiveness? In the last years, she could have put an end to all this madness, but instead she remained stoned faced and silent. She was willing to rip her family apart, allowed the use of valuable public resources, and abused the heartfelt efforts of endless volunteers, and still she said nothing. She faced a death sentence when supposedly all she had to say was that Caylee's death was an accident. Eva Kor forgave those that harmed her because someone expressed remorse for her loss. Casey has never done that. If forgiving her means reading her books, watching her interviews , or in any way financially supporting her when she NOW wants to talk - I won't do that. Using her voice now to make money is simply wrong. I just hope she does no more harm in this world.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Mom of 3

      I don't think she wants or cares about our forgiveness.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  8. Mom of 3

    What exactly are we supposed to forgive her for? Zanny the Nanny stole her baby and she somehow ended up in a bag in a swamp – this is her testimony to police. She had nothing to do with hurting the baby or the baby's disappearance or throwing her in the woods. (sarcasm) I have no idea as to the point of this article as according to our justice system, this woman did nothing wrong – she is the victim. I guess now we will have to live through the sappy "poor Casey" articles that conveniently forget the real victim.

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

      "WE"..."THE PEOPLE" ARE NOT GOD....JUDGE NOT...Many don't know the Bible, IT is NOW in GOD'S HANDS...LET IT GO....

      July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  9. FlagWavingPatriot

    Anyone else find it interesting that the courts in America allow police to LIE to civilians, but that they can put civilians into jail for uttering LIEs to police ?

    And, similarly, notice that the government allows police to videotape your car and you from their dash camera, but that you can be arrested for videotaping police ??

    American Government = dictatorship, police state.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  10. kklouisiana

    I have heard from God on more than one occasion. I am not worthy of what He has blessed me with. I am so sorry you have not experienced His grace and love.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      THis was directed at "Frank"

      July 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Mom of 3

      You have heard from him personally?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Shelia

      Amen and Bless You..NO ONE can Judge another, let GOD do it ALL...

      July 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • JB

      God will judge her accordingly.

      Romans 12:17-19 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • frank

      You've heard from him? Did he have a nice voice like Morgan Freeman?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  11. George

    The only reason Casey Anthony and her family got away with murder is because the Justice System in our country has become flawed and corrupt.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • FlagWavingPatriot

      Uh, don't forget incompetent.

      Note the absolutely stupid prosecutor who sat there in court and giggled and snickered at defense during closing statements? Uh, thats intentionally attempting to disrupt the presentation of information directly to the jury... yet the clown was not arrested. The prosecutor was not arrested when any other citizen would be.

      Two civilians went to jail during that trial for "disrupting" the proceedings. One for flipping off the DA and the other for verbalizing something in open court. BOTH were sent to jail. Yet the dirty prosecutor who deliberately attempted to disrupt the defense by snickering... walked away free.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Mom of 3

      More like weak and insipid and with jurors who think they are on CSI.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  12. kweb

    God is the only One strong enough to forgive this woman. I most certainly am not, nor will I ever be.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  13. FlagWavingPatriot

    Nancy Grace was a perfect example of a "justice system" prosecutor.

    She spoke in half truths and cut off anyone's microphone who dared provide any information favorable to Casey Anthony.

    After watching this charade of "justice," I'll never again respect a prosecutor / district attorney. They attempted to imprison the suspect based upon their assumptions that they call "legal theories" rather than direct, hard facts.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Shelia

      Thank You So much for the Words of Truth on Nancy...

      July 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • jeff

      i used to watch nancy grace tell her to move on help the kids that are missing. i'm going to turn on her show and if shes talking about casey anthony i'm turning it off and so are my friends. maybe she needs to retire if she can't go on reporting we will start contacting her sponcers too

      July 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • stephensB

      Well put !!!!! Pre-trial , prejudicial publicity from pieces of garbage like NG are one the biggest problems with the legal system . I venture to say that without the kay are eh pee spewing from NG's mouth for 3 years the outcome of this trial may have been completely different ...... I know some who think the jury may have had doubts due to lack of specific cause of death but were so disgusted by the pre trail lynch mob that they just kicked it out as not guilty to end the insanity coming from the media .

      July 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  14. frank

    Rest assured, she'll face justice when she meets God! He is an Awesome God! Nobody's ever actually seen Him or heard from Him in the entire history of our fucking species, how Awesome is that!!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Shelia

      My, My...I Do Have Mercy on "Those Who do not Believe" Yet That is the "Greatest Sin of All"

      July 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      I have heard from God on more than one occasion.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • truthsayer2

      Nobody's ever heard from him, huh? Under what rock have you been hiding?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  15. ForestSound

    It's not about forgiveness but of justice.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  16. sumxsdumb

    I think she should be chloroformed, duct taped and stuck in a plastic bag and put in the trunk of a car until she starts stinking then put in a marsh somewhere for the meter reader to find....just my thoughts.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  17. Single mom of four

    It very sad that we have formed our opinion based on the media. I have an opinion! but I am not her judge, jury or executioner that was left to others to decide. Unfortunately, we are as usual being manipulate in our decisions. I was not their! I do think there is a problem with not reporting and that the mom did the right thing. Casey may be quilty of more but there is no proof the case was not proven if our judicial system was based on opinion there would be a whole lot more innocent people in Jail. For all you religious people looked to your bible "You shall not stand in Judgement" its not your job!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Rosie

      You are absolutely right.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Mom of 3

      It is our job to protect the vulnerable and the innocent – not stick our heads in the sand. This woman will breed again – should we ignore the fact that she may become homicidal again?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Mom of 3

      It is our job to protect the vulnerable and the innocent – not stick our heads in the sand.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Shelia

      Very Well Said, Thank You...there are still some sane people in the world, This is Over, Let It Go...Do Not Judge

      July 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  18. jackola

    She got a break that she didn't deserve, OK? We've all had breaks we didn't deserve. Let her go in peace.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  19. HW

    While I fully understand the reasoning behind the good doctor's comments and agree that forgiveness is possible for all types of transgressions from the slightest slights to the most horrendous of offenses, I think that it is a bit premature to suggest at this point that we all drop down and offer our forgiveness to this woman who beat the system in spite of her lies and the lies of those trying to keep her off death row. In my opinion forgiveness will be forthcoming when Ms. Anthony shows some contrition for HER acts which led to the death of her child – whether or not that death was intended or not. How she does that is up to her whether it be through mental health counseling or other means. To suggest she get a free pass is a slap in the face to society and a travesty of justice for a beautiful little girl thrown out like trash. Sorry I am not at the forgiveness point.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Agreed

      I agree with "I am not at the forgiveness point". It may even be easier to forgive someone who has hurt you personally than to forgive a stranger I think, as there is more motivation to forgive your own friends/family. I probably can and will eventually forgive the murder or accidental death of Caylee, it's the throwing a child out like trash that I actually have a bigger problem with. That was intentional and Casey has not acted the least bit sorry about having done that. It sickens me beyond words.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  20. JusticeIsNeededForKaylee

    How can you forgive a woman who Did Not Forgive her own parents who are hurting right now and want to see her? She has no regards for her own family that she threw under the bus after stealing from them.. Her daughter which she murdered without mercy most probably have forgiven her.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Acaraho

      Who cares about this family and what they do. We have troops in Afghanistan, worry about them for a change.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Shelia

      Maybe, You should ask what was done to her in her past?...There are some things family just can't get over, There are some things family's hide, I Still say there is more to This than we know, the media spin does not convince me...Just let GOD Handle it...

      July 17, 2011 at 7:52 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.