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. sue d.

    I would never forgiven for those who murdered for a crime ! Casey Anthony killed her own daughter was 2 years old for what ? She got what she wants to be "Betta Vita " Happy lIfe ! That is terrible thing she did ! She got away with it ! Who fault is Jurors have failed ! Very disappointment!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  2. Mensaboy

    Regardless of how her daughter died, the behavior of this entire family is disgusting. If one of my children or grandchildren went missing, my family would relentlessly seek to find them, not party my ass off.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  3. Mirabella

    Never forgive. Never forget. Never. Never. Never (Said Churchill style). NEVER.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • AJ

      I feel so sad for you. What a horrible life you must lead. To be so perfect and never have to forgive anyone.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  4. Joe

    Why is CNN all of a sudden trying to get people forgive her? Make her look better, face it, somebody will eventually nail her! She is hated too much. I don't wish ill will, but I think its coming!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      you have no cause to h_ate .. there was no injury done to you .. why are you angry? What caused that? Is that how you are? Or are you following a mob leader?

      July 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • krehator

      They only thing worse than criminals, are uninformed rejects who take the law into their own hands. There is a reason we have a judicial system. If people do not believe in it, they should move where they can find one they approve of.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • pw

      funny.....OJ was golfing in country clubs, nobody hurt him......but I guess he was a celebrity murderer

      July 17, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  5. RightTurnClyde

    Be a lynch mob .. you cannot appreciate civilization ... follow Ms. grace

    July 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • krehator

      Nancy Disgrace is an ugly, and overly painted female version of Joesph McCarthy.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  6. JW

    Forgive her for what ?? The jury has declaered her not guilty...What's to forgive ?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I do not know why that is so difficult .. they cannot understand that .. (the mob thing .. N.Grace)

      July 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • krehator

      Apparently we have been invaded by Communists that believe people are guilty no matter what. Many of them were guild to the show trial, playing couch lawyer. Amazing how many legal experts we have at home. They want the law to punish this girl, but then they don't believe in the law when it declares her not guilty. They contradiction themselves and have no credibility. Many of them are juts crazy themselves.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  7. krehator

    "Those people" are effin crazy and should be locked up too.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  8. MP

    To: Patrick Wanis To answer your question if Casey deserves forgives? You're confusing foolishness for righteousness.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • RoseMcB

      I agree. I don't, personally, have to forgive her for anything. It's no skin off my nose one way or the other. It isn't keeping me up nights. I don't like her. I don't wish her well. I wish her instant karma. I disagree with the verdict finding her not guilty, but the damage was not done to me. The only person who can forgive this woman is dead.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  9. AmericanSam

    Let Casey suffer alone. Only she really knows what happened. Everyone else needs to move on. Kids are murdered every day. Let's use the energy to help save lives, not end them.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  10. df


    July 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  11. Kirk Kennedy

    Did you forget to take your medication today? Casey "Mother Dearest" Anthony, should burn in hell!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  12. Ruby1

    Whatever happens to her, when she gets out, well lets just say that she does Deserve alot of Pain also!! After the way she Treated her little Angel, Caylee . She deserves what ever comes her way, and like some say, God is the only one who will Judge Her, in her future years to come, and lets just see how she Survives out here in the Real World, Does anyone want to go out Partying with her, so they can use Chloroform on You too? And lock you up in the trunk of her Car?? Lets see if she will get away with it AGAIN??????????????

    July 16, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  13. crs

    Okay we forgive her, but if she wants to go swimming in a pool ,too, then let her drown u too! She is just a sorry A– of a Dumb Person, and like a little Girl, and a selfish one at that too! Dont worry she will get in to some other kind of trouble, just like that Idiot person of a so called Man OJ Simpson, that Ja– A–! No good for nothing of a Human Being!! People like them, they will always screw up one way or another in theyre sorry Life, that they will be living! Ha Ha!! Two very Pitiful People, maybe they should hang out together, and see what else Damage they can do to People??? Maybe Kill Again????

    July 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  14. J.W

    The main thing that bothers me about this case is the media. Personally, I do think she was guilty of something, just possibly not first degree murder. If the media could follow her around for three years it could do it to anybody. What if one of your family members died and the media followed you around everywhere? And even if you were found not guilty everyone would still think you were?

    July 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  15. Deona Lindholm

    I say this about the case: It is not for us to judge. Innocent or guilty, that is for God to decide. As it says in the Bible, "Judge not, least Ye be judged".

    July 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Atheist2

      Deona, There is no such judging God.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • df


      July 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  16. David

    Despite what you presume to know about the "truth" about what happened, our laws and a jury of our peers found her to be innocent of the charges brought against her. As ungratifying as the end result may be at times, this process of finding truth and consequence is far better than mob justice where participants act as their own judge and jury and believe themselves to be above the law.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • mick11

      She was found not guilty not innocent there is a difference!

      July 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Ned Ryerson

      There's a nice tribute app on Android, Flowers For Caylee.. let's you place a flower in a virtual memorial

      July 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  17. Nina

    The huge difference here is that the doctors involved with the concentration camps were recognized and tried as war criminals. Casey Anthony has eluded the justice system for now and the anger that is being expressed is as much about that as her guilt. She represents someone whose selfish disregard for others and sociopathic behavior exhibits little ability to confess or repent her crimes as the doctor did in this story.

    I admit to wishing her the life she has truly reaped with her behavior. If she is hounded and fearful, perhaps that is what she has sown with the unthinkable in the last moment's of Caylee's life.

    Mr. Kanis, your moralistic attempt to have the high ground here will fall on many deaf ears without some action from Casey Anthony that she is clearly incapable of giving. It's not for us to forgive her – it's for Caylee.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • @Nina

      How exactly has she "eluded the justice system"? She stood trial and was found not guilty due to lack of hard evidence.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • frank

      "The huge difference here is that the doctors involved with the concentration camps were recognized and tried as war criminals."
      Not really...

      July 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  18. Woolsey

    Dr. Wanis,

    In what is your Ph.D?

    Just askin'.


    July 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  19. inthenews2011

    why was she so calm during the reading of the verdict? her reaction compared to others acquitted was too reserved

    July 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  20. Thomas

    i hope she drowns in a pool

    July 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Casey

      @Thomas....If I go down, you go down with me! Biatch!

      July 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Deona Lindholm

      May God have mercy on your soul.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Caylee

      Jesus and I have searched the heavenly internet and are now planning for Casey to break her neck.

      July 16, 2011 at 10:55 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.