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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. SoundFromForest

    American girls should learn to keep purity before marriage, to have one decent husband for rest of the life, and to live happily for decades raising children normally.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Polly

      No, American girls should learn how to use birth control.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • NHTK - 12

      @ S_F_F
      You've got that right! .... But so should young men! It's our society's moral decay that causes such evil in our world...

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      @Polly
      Birth Control will only prevent unwanted pregnancies. It's like putting a band aid on a deep wound! The decay in our society needs much more then band aid! It needs a heart transplant!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  2. abby

    Why is there a "belief blog" on CNN? I thought this was a news site?

    July 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  3. Evan

    This is a good article. Forgiving someone does not condone the actions whatsoever. Forgiveness is simply giving the situation to God and allowing the perfect judge to take on the burden of justice. Forgiveness is the realization that you can not bring justice to a situation. Only God can do that. You want the person who you are forgiving to come to God and cry out for help. Ultimately, the greatest justice is for someones eyes to be open and for them to help propel this world into a positive direction.
    Yes, you want justice to be served and dangerous people out of society, but justice and forgiveness are two different things.

    I forgive Casey Anthony and pray that her eyes be opened to who God is. The light of God reveals all truth and that's when true justice is done.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  4. Iowa Woman

    Casey Anthony does not need to ask for our forgiveness, nor is it our place to grant it. Although we are outraged at what was done to her daughter, we were not directly wronged by her actions. (Even if this was just an accident, rather than a murder.) Rather, her daughter was wronged by her. So, since her daughter is dead, Casey is going to have to ask for forgiveness from God, which means she will have to develop a conscience if this hasn't happened yet. And, if someday she develops a woman's heart and sincerely asks for forgiveness from God, she will know that she will never be able to right her wrong–and this will haunt her forever. God will forgive her if she is sincere in her request, but she will likely never be able to forgive herself. She will never be a "free" woman, as the headlines say right now.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Yes, this is between her and now. She should not be condemned, and every one of us must release the anger and let it go, and let God deal with her...
      .But if this woman is guilty, but got off by scheme of lies, she must acknowledge and confess her guilt publicly in order to get forgiveness from God.
      She can not hide the truth, and ask God to forgive her! He requires her full confession in order to be forgiven!

      I think most people don't understand that ! But there is no other way!

      July 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  5. trellie

    @Jim, so true. Our News or TV stations are not about Caylee, but ratings to me. The media has endorsed books, if they would have stopped talking about Casey,it would not have been hot news! Now it is and the first book out will sell record high, I don't want one, this case has been talked to death.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  6. GCV

    6 days after Caylee died, and 25 days before anyone by Casey knew about it, Casey wrote:

    "I have no regrets, just a bit worried. I just want for everything to work out OK. I completely trust my own judgment and know that I made the right decision. I just hope that the end justifies the means. I just want to know what the future will hold for me. I guess I will soon see—This is the happiest that I have been in a very long time. I hope that my happiness will continue to grow—I've made new friends that I really like. I've surrounded myself with good people—I am finally happy. Let's just hope that it doesn't change."

    That is a confession of murder. Murder is not a crime for which there is forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  7. CNN Terrorist Organization

    CNN is a terrorist organization employing active CIA agents and terrorism techniques through their media channels. A direct violations of the Patriot Act and the Material Support Clause by using terrorism through US Media outlets to promote a political ideology for monetary gain. Their direct funding from the pentagon and other terrorist organizations show malice intent towards law abiding American Citizens

    That being said being ACQUITTED OF MURDER IS NOT THE SAME AS – BEING FOUND INNOCENT.

    Stop with the propaganda and terrorism directed at the American people. You have no power. We reject you.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  8. Jim Dominic

    If editors and executive producers would drop her out of the daily news cycle, people would forget about her and she won't become a celebrity. She can only remain in the public eye with the cooperation of the news and entertainment media. Kick her to the curb along with her notoriety. Use something else to sell ad space.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  9. Steven

    Ms. Anthony got away with her crimes. She should feel blessed to still be alive while her poor child never had the chance to live a life. This women doesn't deserve compassion or forgiveness since she was in effect given a second chance. If she does the right thing and goes into hiding forever then in time she'll be forgotten about. However I don't see her doing that. She'll use the media to profit from her crimes and laugh at all of us who would rather die ourselves then see harm come to our children.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Kristal

      i hope her demise is a lenghty process

      July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  10. dumb-bunnies

    It amazes me that so many people delude themselves into thinking they have it better than others because they forgive everybody for any attrocity. Forgive? If you have to forgive in order to feel good then you need to take medication instead. There are a lot of times when forgiveness is absurd. It is so selfish to simply forgive someone who has commited cold calculated murder of a child. Do you actually feel good just forgiving and forgetting? Then you are similar to a sociopath that has no conscience. God will not let you into heaven because you are so selfish. So, I hope there isn't a window in heaven because I don't really want to see you burning in hellfire.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tim

      lighten up. Take a pill or smoke something.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  11. Greg48

    Congratulation and thanks to Jose Baez and Cheney Mason, you saved the life of a young woman, we all make mistakes when we're young, we don't know what she went through, she has a lot of work in front of her but she's going to be ok, she's a lot stronger now.

    Good luck to Casey and shame on Nancy Grace, JVM and the rest of the HLN crew..HLN is a disgrace

    July 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • clueless

      Yes, I too just want to thank all the babies I had to kill to get to where I am today.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  12. Kristi

    Yeah I don't think most people sit around all day letting their hate for Casey rule their day. Don't know why people on here take a mean or negative comment about Casey to the extreme of that we do not forgive people, we do not forget, it's up to God. We all know God has final judgement and He will be her final judge. That doesn't mean people are going to think this case and her freedom is ok. She got away with killing an innocent little girl. I think EVERY person around the world has every right to dislike her. Does not mean we are all consumed with hate.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Dee

    I don't understand those who say we should forgive this woman and move on. So you're saying we should forgive those who murder their children and get away with it. She needs to take responsibility and the weight for what she did. She should not be forgiven for murdering her 2-year old daughter unless she shows remorse and admits to committing this act. If we forgive her without her doing this, then we are as bad as she is and we are guilty of supporting this heinous act. She should not be accepted on any terms forgiven and forgotten. Whatever we do, though, she will have to live with what she did for the rest of her life. She will have no peace and she will pay for what she did.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Tricia

    This is different, she took the life of her own child, accident or not.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  15. true-genius

    A 12 member jury is magically always correct and it's perfection should never be questioned. A whole society of nazi's numbering in the tens of thousands decided 6 million people should die but they were not a magical 12 member jury which always makes god's perfect decisions. Throughout history human beings in groups have come up with attrocious ways of killing other humans so it's hard to think that a 12 member jury of humans gets things right. There might be a better way than the 12 member jury but it is too ingrained in our thinking that 12 member juries are the magic. We should get our thinking out of the box because it ain't working evidentally.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Kristal

      12 accomplises 2 a murder moron's idiots dummy baby killers

      July 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  16. Anna

    It is too soon to forgive, but in time it will likely happen.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  17. Kristi

    Sorry everyone...I meant to type she lies and so do her parents not she lies and so don't her parents.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  18. John

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]
    \

    July 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  19. John Capobianco

    The only person that can grant forgiveness is Caylee, and she is dead.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  20. trellie

    So you go through you whole life hating someone, because you believe that she killed her child? You stress yourself out over her. Please, life is too short, and I have children that need me. I will not waste my time hating someone that bearly knows who she is. Let God be the judge!

    July 17, 2011 at 9:06 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.