home
RSS
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

« Previous entry
soundoff (2,071 Responses)
  1. Jackie

    To the Media and Nancy Grace. Casey has partyed up her Parents and Friends money.For three years. Now everybody is saying how is she going. To handle the real life easy.Know one never said how much. Littlle Caylee life Insurance policy is
    worth.Casey or her Bigshot Attorneys.That is going to help her cash in on the dough. While Casey lays low in hiding waiting on her Hollywood role.

    .
    Casey or her Big shot attorneys that is going to help her cash in on the
    dough. Whille she lays low in hiding waiting on her hollywood role offer.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  2. Dan Koppel

    What is required to receive forgiveness? The 3 A's: ADMIT, APOLOGIZE, ATONE. Somebody who is willing to forgive without these is just a spineless chump.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  3. Happyfrenchman

    What a load of crap. It is not our place to forgive her. No one can forgive her. The victim could forgive her, but her victim is dead.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  4. MIke

    The reason you can not forgive her is she is laughing at the system and made a joke of us. If she came forward and asked for forgiveness than, yes, it may be given. However, if I see her out like a rock star, I will boo her until see leaves where ever I am.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  5. PHinMiami

    Forgiveness is for those who repent and are sorry. To forgive a pathological liar and sociopath is to be an enabler and encourage aberrant behavior. Do not put a measure of guilt on those of us that seek retribution for the unspeakable crime against Caylee.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  6. David Johnson

    @Tom

    You said: "If someone harms me, and I choose to forgive them... then so be it. But if someone harms an innocent child.... as a society we can not forgive such a heinous act because as a society with so many civil rot and corruption around us, we must protect our children and hold their innocence and beauty above all else."

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. The operative word in your comment is "IF". Casey has been found NOT GUILTY – INNOCENT. Talking about Casey's punishment is idiocy. This is why we have trials...to determine guilt. Once a jury has rendered a verdict of not guilty, it should be accepted. You are very close to talking lynch mob.

    Cheers!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  7. Wow

    "What if she killed your 2 yr old daughter" You make the assumption here that she had done it. The problem is you can't prove it. Then one questions how she behaves as if that yields any warrant to the case. Behaviors don't show any proof what so ever. Look at it from a judge or jury perspective. Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I felt the proven needed some emphasis. What would be hilarious. I mean just god awfully funny. If she was sentenced to death and the actual killer pops up lol. I'd laugh so hard at all of you. However, if she did do it and no killer pops up. She regains a life and another chance undeserved. However, I'd rather take my chances on that, then take the chances of punishing an innocent person. This isn't a defense for her, don't really care for her. More just an explanation to why she was acquitted.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • MIke

      Her own attorney said she killed her by letting her drown in the pool, Oh yes, is not the fiirst place you would look?

      July 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • PHinMiami

      WOW – Yeah, you're a bleeding heart and not very bright. Even Casey's parents acknowledged her guilt. Get your blinders off and read a little.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  8. BellaTerra66

    I'm not going to hold a grudge. I certainly wish her no harm. But this young woman is guilty, and everyone knows it. And it is outrageous that she is just walking away. I'm not angry at her. I'm angry at the people who prosecuted her and at our justice system.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @BellaTerra66

      You said: "I'm not going to hold a grudge. I certainly wish her no harm. But this young woman is guilty, and everyone knows it."

      Well, not everyone. The ones that mattered, the jury, found her to not be guilty.

      You said: "And it is outrageous that she is just walking away. I'm not angry at her. I'm angry at the people who prosecuted her and at our justice system."

      No, it is outrageous that you and others will not accept the verdict. You are angry, because the jury did not agree with you.

      "our" justice system worked just fine.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  9. mrknowitall

    If someone kills you just forgive them. It's the sweet thing to do. Just get over it.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  10. Michael Martinez

    CNN fed this hystreria with Nancy Grace's shameless multi-year character attacks on a defendant who was supposed to be accorded the presumption of innocence throughout the trial. Since when does CNN get to pretend it has no culpability in keeping a rumor-mongering, hate-powering monster on the air?

    People who want to express anger and frustration need to vent those feelings toward the true problem: CNN and its quest for ratings at any expense through Nancy Grace's campaign of character assassination.

    Where's the evidence, Nancy? You had not one shred of proof nor the decency to come clean and admit you were wrong.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Michael Martinez

      You said: "CNN fed this hystreria with Nancy Grace's shameless multi-year character attacks on a defendant who was supposed to be accorded the presumption of innocence throughout the trial. Since when does CNN get to pretend it has no culpability in keeping a rumor-mongering, hate-powering monster on the air?"

      I agree. CNN and Ms. Grace should be ashamed. They should realize how easy it is to lead these religious sheep. To whip them into a frenzy.

      CNN and idiot Nancy Grace have placed Casey in grave danger.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • JulienDUI

      Wrong. If the state had no evidence the jury wouldn't have been split 6-6 for manslaughter on the first vote. The 6 that voted to convict for manslaughter on the first vote came to that decision on what Mikey? Did those 6 flip a coin Mikey? Heads>convict....tails>aquit? EVIDENCE is why they came to that conclusion. And, for the uneducated who have never been in a deliberation room before I'll let you in on a little secret why jurors suddenly change their vote. It's called ARM TWISTING.

      July 18, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  11. Jen

    Probably the dumbest article I have ever read. When someone abuses our kids lets not punish them lets just forgive them, then nobody will ever hurt another child. Idiot!!

    July 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • MIke

      Right on

      July 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Jen

      You said: "Jen
      Probably the dumbest article I have ever read. When someone abuses our kids lets not punish them lets just forgive them, then nobody will ever hurt another child. Idiot!!"

      Jen...We put Casey on trial, for murdering her daughter. The jury found the evidence wanting. They set Casey free. No one forgave Casey. Punishing an innocent person, probably won't curb the crime you are punishing them for. Right?

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  12. justme

    Forgiveness should be due to the press for generating all this hatred. The MSM has injected themselves in the judicial process by creating enormous prejudice based on very carefully structured mis-information–all for the sake of profit and simply because the press is accountable to no one. When something bad happens to Casey, who will be liable?

    July 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  13. Dundandi

    "the anger, revenge and bitterness" doesn't "help bring back" any of the murder victims! Does that mean we should stop prosecuting the accused in all those cases and save some public money?

    July 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Dundandi
      You said: "the anger, revenge and bitterness" doesn't "help bring back" any of the murder victims! Does that mean we should stop prosecuting the accused in all those cases and save some public money?"

      No, but if we are going to have trials, then we should abide by the decisions reached. If not, then lets just have mob rule.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  14. inga

    Forgiveness is for the one that was wronged.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. klamerus

    You forgive people that apologize.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @klamerus

      You said: "You forgive people that apologize."

      Only people that are guilty need apologize. Casey was found not guilty by 12 of her peers.

      Cheers!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  16. Bob

    You can't forgive something that the person still denies.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  17. mrknowitall

    There is no intelligent life on this planet.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  18. BEN

    Plus they talk about her safety as a human and then all over cnn and every channel they describing her outfit and shoes. i think she should sue them for what every step she takes they are there waiting

    July 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  19. George

    If Casey Anthony had been found guilty and serving a sentence for what she did (and everyone knows she did it), I might be able to forgive her. However, she got away with it, so I hope she never knows another day of peace for the rest of her long life and may she live to be 100 and miserable. That little girl was tortured and killed by the very person she should have trusted most. Casey, disappear and do us all a favor.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • whisp

      Amen

      July 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  20. BEN

    SAM, your right. there a lady right here in reading by me who stuck babies in her closet and months later they found out and nancy grace doesnt put her on tv to be crazy. If casey ever proved her point of innocent to america ands a real killer was found, then they let her go but its not fair give her a shot and let her prove it. i beleive her dad and mom had something to do with it behind her back.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53
« Previous entry
Advertisement
About this blog

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.