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. GAW

    I thought that in most cases one is supposed to forgive another if they admit fault? Casey has admitted nothing here. If indeed she killed her daughter (Which most likely is the case here) then I'm sure she is not ignorant of the fact that what she did was wrong. So making an appeal to the verse in the Luke 23:34 is sloppy thinking. Most of us are angry here because this was an act of injustice that went unpunished. Many of us believe that to forgive those who don't admit fault is to condone an evil act.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Jerry

    I wonder if Mr. Wanis has the same opinion about OJ Simpson? I can forgive OJ way before I come any where close in forgiving this woman. I believe OJ did it, but I don't think it was pre-planned. Plus the fact that this woman did it to a small child makes it 1000x worse in my book.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • DaveAsh

      Jerry, were you on the jury that convicted Jesus Christ?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • M. V.

      There is one VERY IMPORTANT aspect to forgiveness.... that being repentence. God doesn't just "blindly" forgive everyone. Ask Satan about that. In order for any type of forgiveness to even be considered there must be REPENTENCE on the part of the person doing the wrong. In this particular case, CASEY ANTHONY would need to REPENT meaning "turn around" and admit her wrong-doing...and ASK for forgiveness, then and only then will people and God even have the option to forgive. Don't hold your breath waiting for this admission from her........

      July 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  3. Kornelia Strong

    The video is sick. She is sick and repulsive!!! How can a "loving" mother party like that while her baby is missing!!!???

    July 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • She is innocent

      That doesn't make her a muderer. By the way, how's everything in Salem these days?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • DaveAsh

      Salem = Orlando

      July 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  4. Twisted

    Mistakes can be forgiven, crimes can not be. The author of this blog is "a human behavior and relationship expert", so this "expert" has to some how sell his expertise through such publicity stunts.

    It is easy to vouch for forgiving when the child belongs to someone else. What if someone does to own child, would we be writing such non sense blog?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • DaveAsh

      Habla Englis?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • She is innocent

      And you are an expert on what, law?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Kate

    I don't like Casey Anthony and I think she's guilty....HOWEVER, I think it's time for CNN Headline News to move on!
    I'm tired of seeing and hearing this day after day. Vinnie, Jane, Nancy...don't you have anything else to talk about?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  6. Kornelia Strong

    No forgiveness for cold blooded child murderers! That's up to God.
    C. Anthony has to pay for her crime!
    "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!"

    July 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • She is innocent

      If everything is all up to God to decide, why arrest anyone and have a trial?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  7. Forgive her? No, thank you. God damn her? Yes, please


    This is not a mom mourning the loss of her child.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • DaveAsh

      She is sooooooo, HOT!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Sandy

      no, this is an ex mom enjoying her life with nor responsibilities!!!!!

      July 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • She is innocent

      It has already been proven virtually all those photos were taken prior to the disappearance of Caylee. So who is the liar now?

      July 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • PHinMiami

      Some small minded people find it too difficult to believe there are actually sociopaths among us. Casey isn't the first and won't be the last, . . . beware.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  8. Sandy

    It is beyond me how 12 jurors all agreed when at least 75% of the public believe she is guilty. I listened to the interview with the jury foreman & I could just shake him & say "SNAP OUT OF IT".

    July 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      it is because you have listened to what the media wants you to hear. you believe everything they want you to believe. politicians are eating this up. beware of the next political election. analysts are loving this.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  9. DaveAsh

    Just my luck! I had an opportunity last may to buy Florida pitchfork and torch futures. I could have been richer than Bill Gates. Oh well, there's still plenty of money to be made from the "Catch Frankenstein" crowd. By the way, looking at Cute Casey leaving the jail, no wonder she entered a "hot body contest". I bet she won. She can warm my body anytime!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • mrknowitall

      Don't you wish she would run for President? She wouldn't be any worse than the current crop of geniuses in public office.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • DaveAsh

      She would be a great replacement for Harry Reid.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Twisted

      When you make out with her, be warned, dont make her pregnant, you know what I mean

      July 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  10. Lynette

    I'm waiting for the papparazzi to hound her to death. They should make money for pics, not her!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  11. Nina

    How could I forgive someone who HAS NOT asked for it NOR shown any remorse? Spare me what the jurors said, Casey KILLED Caylee and everyone knows it. The juror found OJ not guilty and we all know he killed those two people too.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Vicki

    "What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. " If you don't forgive, then you will be judged for all of your sins. "What you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." If you forgive others their sins, then your sins will not be judged. Personally, I don't see any good coming from accepting the media trial of 3 years. It was up to the prosecution to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she murdered that child. They didn't have enough evidence to convict her. It is time to move on.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • JJinCO

      "It was up to the prosecution to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she murdered that child."

      It was up to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she was guilty of murder, manslaughter or aggravated child abuse. It is unreasonable to believe she wasn't responsible for her daughter's death.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  13. get real

    doesnt anyone have a life..why did u watch the trail..im sick of the news and on here now cuz mad at the stuipd "breaking news" of her leavIing jail... i dont care about her...i think she did it... but i am not feeding into the stuff..thats all of "U" getting programed my the media and their sponsors...they keep saying , "the people cant get enough of this story".. i had enough when i heard the mom's 911 tape last year..already knew!!! .now because they got u.. THE ANCHOR NEWS LAWYERS will do a book u will be dumb and bUy it.. casey will write a book and sell a movie script, get paid for interviews and so will the lawyers and u will make those jerks rich.. make a donation to the boys' n girls club instead.. or ur church.... DONT PLAY INTO THIS STUFF..WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! Pay attention to the teens around u.. mentor the young girls.. pay attention in YOUR TOWN-BACK YARD... put this energy there!! Im sure they got u to watch the ROYAL WEDDING too! did u buy a wedding mug.? HONOR ""CAYLEE'" by letting this story go and 'LET HER REST IN PEACE".. dont let people get rich on this little girls death.. CHANGE THE CHANNEL IF THIS STORY IS ON THE TV.... BE SMART AMERICANS ...NOT PROGRAMED ONES.....

    July 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • mamaT

      Casey will pay for God sakes when Playboy looks down on ya i mean how rotten do ya have to be for Playboy to say "no thank you Casey you stepped over the line "an their line is low.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  14. Jez

    Its interesting how "Christians" cherry pick and apply the Christian doctrine of forgiveness only where its comfortable for them. Then again, maybe most of the respondents to this article are heathens...

    July 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  15. ChinLee3

    This article is a moot point. Only Caylee, her family, Zenaida Gonzalez and all the others she wronged can forgive Casey Anthony. She hasn't done anything to the rest of us, Patrick Wanis, Ph.D needs to challenge the correct parties with his case for forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • drweenus

      here here

      July 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  16. Amy

    She is a sociopath...sooner or later she will kill again... after watching hours of this trial and after I saw her laughing and flippping the bird while they were showing pic of her daugher in cout, all I can say is that she is a devil person who never showed real remorse... this is so discusting.. there is people who are sent to jail for stealing a piece of bread because they canno feed their families and this murder was set free by a group of jurors who did what Poncio Pilatus did...when he choose to set free a thief than Jesus...this lazy juros only wanted to wash their hands... I am sorry but it is hard to forgive a monster like her...

    July 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • John

      You are ASSUMING that she killed the child, intentionally or otherwise. THIS is the problem.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Lynette

      LOL Maybe some of the losers who'd want to be with Casey might actually have a chance now that no decent person will have anything to do with her??!

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

      John, 'Assuming' isn't very definitive, . . . she definitively did it. To think otherwise is naive or just plain stupid.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  17. Kelly

    The author is a great person, almost like a priest, talking about forgiveness. It is a great virtue to forget and forgive when you are wronged, but to forgive somebody who committed a crime is very personal in nature. It is my decision and my sole decision to forgive the person who murdered my child. Nobody can tell me what to do when it comes to dealing with this personal tragedy.
    In the case of Casey Anthony, majority of us only wanted to see that justice is served. That is the reason why we have laws that govern human actions. If there are no such laws in force, there definitely will be chaos in the world. Everybody will be free to do what they want without fear of any punishment or repercussions. We find that the law makes a distinction between murder by a stranger and murder committed by a close relative. The penalty is usually higher if the victim is related to the offender such as in this case. Caylee is the daughter of Casey Anthony. The existence of such blood relationship between the murder victim and the killer caught the attention of the American public, because that is so unthinkable. True, the incarceration of Casey if she had been found guilty, will not bring Caylee back to life. But, the public will be contented seeing her behind bars because in their minds, justice has been served. When justice is served, there is no need to forgive.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  18. MIke

    And yes it is against the law to let your child drown in a pool.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • John

      Sure...if you "LET" the child drown. However, accidents happen. People don't get a murder 1 charge for accidents

      July 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  19. MIke

    Biaz said, "Look at what you did, your mother will never forgive you." Even he knows she killed Callie

    July 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  20. mrknowitall

    Throughout history of humankind groups of humans can get things very wrong. Nazis in the 1940's, etc, etc. Even a magic 12 member jury can get things really wrong. To play the devil's advocate, if there was a more general acceptance of vigilantism as an acceptable outcome things would even out more and there would be less ridiculousness in the judicial system. It would make crazy people that murder their children stop and think before killing their babies. When a trial ends up like this one did it is worse than any vigilantism. It is an extreme case of a lack of any justice whatsoever.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:53 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.