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. helloeyes

    I wholeheartedly agree with the author that people could harness that negative energy into something good – but that is a coping mechanism that most people do not have, or would not know about. There are a lot of people out there who could use your help if you chose to use your energy for good instead of hatred.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  2. Kristi

    It is hard to describe the anger I feel and the evil I see when you see the video of her walking out of jail. Still having that smug look on her face. She is a cold hearted witch! Her attorney Jose is a pc of crap too. He knows she is guilty, but the cameras, lights and making a big name for himself is much more important. So what happened to the story of Caylee drowned in the pool? Isn't that Casey admitting that Caylee was before her and dead? Duuhhhhh! Not saying I believe she died in that pool, but if she didn't see Caylee dead, she would never tell such a story. She lies and so don't her parents. Not charging Cindy with perjury, because been through enough.....What all did poor Caylee go through in her last minutes? How a grandmother can turn her back on the truth of what happened to her granddaughter and lie on the stand to protect the murderer. That is just sick!!! That whole family got away with murder!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • laura

      Frankly, I did not see a "smug " look on her face. Take your anger and deal with it in a constructive fashion. Move on with your life

      July 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  3. Nancy Thompson

    I have a picture that is very interesting I would like to share it with the public ...I need and e-mail address so I can send it.Please

    July 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • doublellnfl

      Sure Nancy I'll send you my email address, bout the time pigs fly.. got enough problems don't need a virus to boot.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  4. wondering

    I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men?
    14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
    15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

    Remembering this passage helped me to get over the bad feelings I had towards someone who hurt me intentionally and to this day is not sorry...
    I dont' feel hate for them anymore ...just pity, I really do feel sorry for them...bit I have to say it wasn't easy for me at the time..good luck all and let God and Let go!

    July 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  5. absolutely

    Hey I've got a genius idea. Everyone that has a bad childhood should get a free ticket to murder and then God can take care of things and send them to either heaven or hell. WOW! I'm SO HAPPY now!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  6. PhilG.

    Casey did'nt call the police or any recue personnel for 31 days while she danced like a drunk so and so in a bar and her child was -where?.

    She lead wonderful hearted people on a total wild goose chase trying to find a child she had to know was dead.

    She even accused people that had nothing to do with any part of her childs disappearance with the crime.

    I have ZERO sympathy for her.

    Forgiveness starts with confession.


    July 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • BoneZ

      Nancy Grace confessed for her. Isn't that good enough?

      July 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Megan

      I agree. I have a friend whose child drowned in a pool recently. She immediately called 911 and has been suicidal since. She did not cover his nose and mouth with duct tape, bury the body and go out dancing.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  7. trellie

    I have nothing to forgive her for, she did not do anything to me. I pray for the best.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  8. lsevenl

    There is nothing to forgive. She was acquitted. You fanatic idiots need to find something better to do with your time.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • laura

      So well said!!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  9. harryfink

    This is my second reply, and I can "deal" with it and not be condescending as the 8:37pm reply.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  10. brad

    after talking to my friend, I am going to let go let god, I have no way of changing Casey, Kaylee is in Heaven, all we can do is In Kaylee's name do something good,, nice for some one, every one that is in anger is not doing Kaylee any kind of Justice,, I Now am forgiving her and letting go and let god.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • absolutely

      That is the sweetest thing I've ever heard. You will surely go to heaven.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  11. Outspoken

    Great article, I think it's time the American people move forward and leave Casey Anthony alone. Although I disagreed with the verdict, I hope and pray that Casey will be able to turn her life around and maybe someday her family will be able to forgive her for her sins!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  12. df


    July 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  13. Mike

    Oh Casey, I forgive you, baby. Now please just return my emails and phone calls ; )

    July 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  14. Joe Black

    Forgiveness! Would you forgive Hitler?

    July 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • john

      Your an idiot...if you haven't been introduced to yourself.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Alex

      Hitler is dead. Pick somebody alive. For example, would ABC post an article asking to forgive Philip Garrido ? LOL.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Lemmmeeee see here.... Comparing 6 million definite cases of murder, to one murder (or conceivably, manslaughter) in which an in-person jury could not declare a probable person's definite guilt... now, your comparison to Hitler is a bit of a stretch, Joey Boy. In fact, it's so far out there it's in the realm of UFOs and little green men.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  15. harryfink

    I think that to forgive is great,as Jesus spoke of this.However, I do think that there is a differences between forgiving and excusing.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Philip

      you are right...she didn't even regret or repent for what she did...

      July 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  16. Just saying.....

    So Patrick, PHD – are you saying that I should invite Casey into my home as an Au pair and have her look after my little 2 year old girl? Are you willing to do that with your children? No, I didn't think so. You are just spouting crap for an article to appear on CNN.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Philip

      you asked a good question....I totally agree with you...

      July 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • nolabear

      He isn't asking you to be foolish, just to let go fo the rage. Casey Anthony has no awareness of you at all. Your rage has no affect on her, but it impacts you tremendously. You're even outraged at the author. Now unless I miss my guess you're put out with me, even if just contemptuous of my position. Rage is like that. It takes over. There's a lot of territory between forgiveness and trust. All he's advocating for, wisely I believe, is that what we feel and do affects us the most, and hating someone gives them just as much control over you as loving them does.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • BoneZ

      I think you are confused. Letting go of something that you think someone did doesn't necessarily mean to become roommates with them, give them keys to your place, and ask them to watch your kids now and then. Let the issue go, but use common sense. It's not that hard.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  17. David

    The issue here is not forgiveness nor is it vengence. Those are for God alone. The isssue here is whether any of us can see beyond the media fanned rage that has resulted from the acquittal of this woman to the much more difficult issue that was obvvious to me after working in the field of family violence/child abuse. That issue is why the prosecution and defense were so insensative to the real probability that this woman was severly abused as a child and requires professsional does one reconcile the failure of parents, school personnel, church personnel, and the officers of our courts

    July 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  18. leecherius

    no remorse on her part ... no forgiveness..

    July 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Veeye

      my thoughts exactly...

      July 17, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  19. sure-I-believe-geniuses

    If your skydiving and your parachute fails to open go ahead and tell yourself everything's ok and enjoy every second that's left in your life until you splat onto the ground. That's the same way of thinking as forgiving baby killer's to make yourself feel good. Oh, you kill children? Well at least I can still be HAPPY as long as I personally FORGIVE you. Isn't that SPECIAL!!! I am truly a human behavior GENIUS.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  20. Citizen John

    All of you people are pathetic. The justice system, including a jury of twelve, has found this person not guilty. You'll just have to deal with that. The media is turning you all into a mob. Look at yourselves for a minute. Criminal threatening just because your "soap opera" didn't turn out the way "you" wanted. I weep for the future of this country.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • leecherius

      ok..so she was not proved guilty of murder...what kind of mother would not report her child missing for a month...lie about every question asked of her...party like there wasn't a care in the world. At the very least she should be prosecuted for gross neglect and child endangerment.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • cazadore

      and so do i especially when i read soft skulled comments like yours ..so whatever a jury decides is justice ..you are more than mildly retarded

      July 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • laura

      Right there with you Citizen John

      July 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Utah Residence

      to leecherius

      She was found not guilty of murder negligence but guilty of lying to police and obstruction. So she was charged for child negligence type charges.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • NHTK - 12

      @ John
      If anyone here is pathetic it's you! We should weep because the characters like you make it to be a failure what it is, and which this trial precisely proves to be! And you're so blind to see it! You're washed out, buster!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • NHTK - 12

      @ C. John
      If anyone here is pathetic it's you!
      We should weep because the characters like you make this country to be a failure what it is, and which, among many other things, this trial precisely proves it to be! .....And you're so blind to see it!!
      You're washed out, buster!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:17 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.