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.”
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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.
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.
What a bunch of maudlin rubbish.
The author avoids the real question, which is: was the acquttal perverse? If it was, justice has not been done; if it was not, justice has been done. It is as simple as that. Not having followed the trial (I have a life), I have no opinion as to the only question matters, but it is clear what the question is. Patrick Watsisface is just using this case to grandstand and make a pharisaical display of his pseudo-compassion. If the accused is innocent, there is nothing to forgive; if she is guilty, a miscarriage of justice has occurred and justice has not been served. It's as simple as that.
Forgive? Perfect example of ignorance. Now she knows that she can get way with MURDER and sure other crimes in the future!
hong wang... sounds about right.....
By the way, has anyone added Casey to their Dead Pool yet?
I HAVE! ... Even before the verdict.
Patrick Wanis' article/commentary is a huge load of crap. I'm embarrassed for him. Casey Anthony did kill that baby. Eva should not have forgiven the Nazi's. I agree to try and let our internal anger go and heal, but don't ever forgive deliberate killers, especially those that torture their victims, knowing their intent is to murder them.
Hey Rick... Dr Wanis is trying to help people like YOU.... please re-read and try to absorb his underlying message.
Only a total fool would forgive someone who murders their own child. It is silly absurdity to profess that forgiveness of a cold calculating murderer of children is the thing to do. Only one of our geniuses that study human behavior could come up with that. This guy needs to go back to school and read some more genius books on human behavior because he doesn't understand human behavior even as well as a dead baby does. Do all the dead children have a chance to forgive the people that put duct tape over their mouths suffocating them to death in a horrible manner and then go partying? Dead babies don't ever get to party.
you are mighty high and mighty... aren't you now.
To the Media and Nancy Grace.Casey partyed up her Parents and Friends money for three years.Now everybody is saying that how is. Casey going to handle the real life easy. Know one never said how much Liittle Caylee Life Insurance policy is worth. Casey or her Mr. Big shot lawyer that is going to help her cash in on the big dough.While Casey lays low in hiding waiting on her Hollywood role.
A wonderful article that everyone should read, and take to heart.
I think I'll let God sort this one out. I have a feeling He's going to fix this up nice and tidy. I still think she is guilty of murder and no jury verdict is going to sway me. And don't tell me I don't support our system either. I don't have to drink their Kool aid. They were wrong. I am right.
or... you are wrong, and the jury was right. Either way, it's really none of your business.
That dumb prosecutor going for the death penalty made the mistake. That is the ONLY reason she is walking around free. But something bad may happen to her. We can only hope.
I agree with your with viewpoint that forgiveness is important."Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." – Siddhartha Buddha . What if the criminal does not seek forgiveness, does not admit fault far from being ashamed of guilt ? How can you forgive such a person ?
Exactly. Casey has not admitted to any wrong doing or shown any remorse. She threw her father and brother under the bus by lying about being molested and she partied like a rock star for 31 days after her child went "missing". Forgive? Really??
I'm hoping the rest of her life is miserable and lonely.
I'm sure you are.
... I hope Ms Anthony's life is filled with joy!!... from here forward..... so, I strongly disagree with you.
The only possible redemption for this wayward urchin is to make a porno then off herself.
Someone let the kids out.
I welcome this article! There are plenty of people in C-FL that are trying to forgive over this case. We are also trying to live with the letter of the law, and let those in higher authority take care of the rest! Thanks!
I watched the majority of the trial on the direct feed that doesn't harbor those talking heads who carry a separate trial (Nancy Grace being one of many examples). It took me no time to pass my verdict "Not Guilty". The DA did not produce a case that defined the facts with the evidence admitted in the trial. I would suggest even stupid people try thinking for yourselves. Try it, you might find brains you never knew you had, if they're not there (your brains) at least you'll know.
and where do you believe the little girl was those 30 days? where do yiou think her mother thought she was?
I agree; it was a messy trial from the prosecution straight out of the gate – and the closing argument was very weak.
I too watched the live feed and found that the evidence was lacking. I try, if possible, to watch feed and research on my own because I don't like the harping of the media that is the reason that many people cannot make arguments for their positions without quoting the commentators points of view.In this case, I find more questions than answers so I really am not sure that there is anything to for give or not. Therefore I harbor no ill will toward Casey.
Nora – me neither. There are other scenarios that could have been considered had the prosecution even considered, but they were focussed on one scenario only and that was their misgiving.
Hey John! Six jurors voted GUILTY of manslaughter when they took the first vote in the deliberation room. They had their minds already made up to convict based on the evidence the state presented. Then it happened.....they were talked out of what they REALLY believed by the six lunatics they had been holed up with for weeks.
John,you should hound Nancy Grace until she agrees to debate you on national TV. I've seen her bring so many defense attorneys to near tears that I started to feel sorry for the little weasels. She would have you tougue tied in about a minute. I think only then would you appreciate why she never lost a case she prosecuted.
Has she ever once expressed any regret or remorse over her daughter's "disappearance" and the fact she didn't report it for a month? This woman is a psycho-killer and it frightens me that she is still on the streets. But you want us to forgive her?
It's kinda hard to call in your child missing while dancing on table tops. She didn't mean to kill the little girl....it was an accident. But she still should have gotten a guilty verdict.
This woman has never once admitted her guilt or said she was sorry. She has never once shown remorse. I simply cannot forgive somebody who never asks for it.
Amy : you don't get it. Ms Anthony doesn't need your forgiveness... she doesn't even know who you are.
While others go on – I believe it was juror #7 that had to board the boat for their cruise early on the 7th. Sure hope they enjoyed the trip.
Forgive? No. Anger can be negative , as you say . And it can be positve , also as you say. Anger fuels action. Casey Anthony worked the system. Even by the admission of her legal counsel, she worked it. Caylee won't come back , that's true. None of us can bring her back. What we can for for all the Caylee's of the world is to never let those who had a hand in their demise forget that there are eyes watching them. Forgiveness? Does it really lighten a burden that one carries around? Or does it garner positive feelings and responses from those who are informed that forgiveness has been given. There are some events, and some acts in this life that do not require, nor deserve forgiveness. This is an instance of a person who committed an act, either on her own, or in collusion with others, and she got away with it. Those charged with deciding her fate, for whatever fallability on their part, chose to acquit her. So be it.That is the law of the land. We must respect it, but we don't have to agree, nor like it. I have to wonder if Casey was really innocent, why in three years time could she not provide one shred of credible evidence that she was innocent. Why would a truly innocent person take great care to misdirect those trying to find her child. Why do that? The look on her face the day of the sentencing said it all. Society has taken a tact of removing accountability from ones' actions. And those that do harm to others are reaping the benefits of that. No, Casey is not deserving of forgiveness. To forgive her is to condone her behavior, and that is not acceptable. When someone does something and takes ownership of it, apologizes and asks for forgiveness, perhaps they are worthy. Casey did not do that. Now it's coming to light all the money that has changed hands- given to her, to her parents, to a juror, and possibly more jurors. Can that be forgiven? Financial gain connected to the death of a child? Forgiveness only assuages the emotions of the one doing the forgiving. And perhaps, if that pallative was not received, there could be more positive outcomes from a positon of anger.
Excellent post Sherri. Thank you for taking the time to explain the outrage some of us feel.
I don't know how I can ever forgive what that F^^@&ing Piece of $hiit Casey Anthony did to Caylee. It's not just Caylee, but that F^^@&ing Piece of $hiit also played, used, scewed, mocked, one can even say F66@&ed, the Americans and American justice system.
You people are way too emotionally invested in something that is none of your business to begin with. This was a family tragedy that Nancy Grace turned into a one-woman vendetta – and everybody goes right along with American popular media and echo the sentiments of Nancy Grace, who does not come from a place of balance, peace, forgiveness. She comes from a place of spite and hate, and so the people follow. She was wrong to parade this story and this person the way she did. She is a disgrace and so are all the haters for not thinking for themselves. You all hate her and yet NONE of you actually KNOW what happened. Neither do I, but I at least give other scenarios a second glance. This country has a sad lacking of critical thinking skills – they let their emotions rule – that's how Bush got in for a second term.
Great post Sherri
well Sherri.... though your comment is well thought out and written, I still fail to see how ANY of this Casey Anthony business.. is YOUR business. You had NO business directly or indirectly in this case, or you would have been subpoenaed to testify at trial. Your belief in guilt or innocence.. is completely irrelevant. Forgive or not, the good Doctor is only trying to help folks like you.
There is indeed a time for forgiveness. This ain't it.
Some are disturbed by the outrage and this apparent miscarriage of justice. I would be FAR more disturbed if there were no outrage.
A murder unpunished is an attack on all of us, our society, and our value systems - unless we refuse to acknowledge this or believe we should turn the other cheek. The author may claim he should turn the other cheek, he has the right to be a martyr, he has no standing to proclaim that we should all turn the other cheek. What a terrible world it would be if we did.
Those who are outraged and calling it a miscarriage of justice are only echoing the sentiments of Nancy Grace. The general population did nothing to look at opposing viewpoints and using their own critical thinking skilss to look at other scenarios that may have happened. There are about four other scenarios that I can think of that could explain everything. But let's not do that, let's not go there... let's just be furious and outraged with no knowledge of the truth. That seems to be the practice in this country.
DaveAshv the 400 pound scurge says " She is sooooooo, HOT!!! " LOL never had a girlfriend aye, so you have to go for the run of the mill baby killer mommah.
Hey Elvis let her watch your kids if you have even been given the opportunity to reproduce.. Hopefully you have not –
Doc? As in Doctor Demento? Your wife was the last girlfriend I had. Too bad she turned out to be a him. Casey is hot. Your wife is not.
Won't have to pay child support, "aye"?
TOO THE CASEY DEFENDERS: I only have ONE question for you, explain partying for 31 days after our child goes "missing". I dare you.
who owes you an explanation? the prosecution had 3 years to prove this was a murder. they could not prove it was. case closed....
coping mechanism – people act out, it's how we cope...just like you are right now.It is not hard to believe that a woman who loses her child would lose it and go on a binge. But when Nancy Grace presents it as a woman "partying" and having a good time for the sake of it, of course that is going to slant the public's opinion. However, her behavior is consiostent with someone who has behavioral problems. Answer me this..... why do people call her a psycho and a sociopath and in the same breath don't get why she acted out the way she did? It makes perfect sense.
I do not feel a need to explain Ms Anthony's actions and/or inactions...... It is none of my business, you see.
This is America, not communist China. In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and unanimous verdict by a Jury. Casey was found "not guilty" by unanimous vote of jury. Do we really want a country in which the Jury no longer has the say, but all the media hypes determine guilt or innocence (before a trial even begins). Whether you or I think she was guilty is irrelevant unless we were chosen to serve on the jury. I don't want to live in a country in which people are tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion LONG BEFORE their trial in court. Wake up America, or will we give away all freedoms and right so many of us have fought to protect?
The truth is people have NO idea what actually happened. They're just jumping on board the scenario presented by Nancy Grace. The public's reaction to the media blitz has been very disheartening and proves how very easily led the people are.
I'm glad that Caylee wasn't your daughter or granddaughter. Screw the law and that stupid jury in this case. Yeah, I get American Justice, and all that...but not in this case. Did the OJ Simpson trial not teach us anything? He brutally murdered Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. That jury was a bunch of idiots, too. Just fyi... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2006908/OJ-Simpson-confessed-Nicole-Brown-murder-Oprah-TV-interview-planned.html
No one could possibly say it any better..... thank you Paul.