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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. T-Shirt

    Don't insult our intelligence. Casey never once cried for her daughter. My whole family would be in the hospital if this had happened to one of our 3 young grandchildren. I would never recover enough to be in a Court room. Casey's family are an embarrassment to America. Cindy walking into the Court room each day in ridiculous tent dresses! I hope Karma bites Casey's a s s bigtime.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • ToughBreak

      How do YOU know "Casey never once cried for her daughter"... !!..????...... how do YOU know what YOUR family would or would not do??.............. in fact, what qualifies anything YOU posted here in this ridiculous and un-intellegent rant..??

      July 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  2. ~~~~God~~~~

    Hi!
    I murdered countless babies in the Bible, and you think I'm awesome. This tramp murders one, and you want to lynch her. You're not very bright, are you?
    Ok, later!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Joe Black

      Don't believe everything you read Hi.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Joe Black

    John you just don't get it do you. If you really want to see a idiot look in a mirror. Even my dog knows what I was saying. Why don't you go and pick your nose and have a snack!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  4. emilyl

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WmWhzFLgyM&w=640&h=360]

    Do you want to see the devil? don't get scared please

    July 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  5. patty c.

    The writer makes a valid point. One thing, though: it's much easier to forgive wrongs against oneself than it is to forgive wrongs on behalf of someone else. Further, since whoever murdered this child has never come forward to take responsibility and ask forgiveness, and since the murderer may well have the same moral or psychological issues that allowed this crime to take place, it could happen again. All of this is very unsettling. Still, I agree that being stuck in anger does no good; it's better to do what one can for those kids we can still help.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  6. Mudboy

    I think people need to quit letting their emotions cloud their judgement, and move one. She had her day in court just as every citizen of this country is allowed, and she was acquitted, move on! The jury did their job, and they were privy to a lot more info than I was from watching her being convicted in the media, by a bunch of outlets that wanted to boost their ratings. I think they need to leave her alone, and let her get on with her life. Do, I think she was guilty? Not for me to decide! All I know is she was found" Not Guilty" by our court system, and that is good enough for me. If anyone has a problem with the outcome, take it up with the prosecution, or the jurors. What are going to go back to "lynch mob justice" just because we don't agree with the outcome of a trial now? By law, she is not guilty, so let it go! Yes, it is tragic when a child dies, and we want justice, but maybe next time they need to focus on a better presentation of a trial, than a media circus! On the other hand, if the prosecution could not prove, "without a reasonable doubt" that she was guilty, then the system we have, worked; rather than taking the word of a bunch of people that think they know everything about the trial, because they watched all the news coverage on TV! It is time to move on from this.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  7. Stevenn

    People who threaten violence against Casey Anthony need to get a grip. We have system of civil law in this country, not a system of "tribal law" like in Afghanistan and other places. Sorry, but as an American you have to live under our system. A court of law and a jury found her not guilty and whether you believe that or not, it's the law. You have a right to be unhappy, but you have absolutely no right to take the law into your hands. That is the difference between us and the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. If you or a family member was accused of a crime, you'd certainly want every protection under the law, and that it be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty, before being sent away to prison. If you want that protection for yourself, you have to allow it for everyone.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  8. Michele

    Sick, Caylee.Anthony above. Perhaps you haven't been following closely but that little girl's body was found and removed.

    I think Jim further up said it best – it's difficult to forgive when you don't see people being repentent themselves. Not just in this case but with all the takers out there today. Please forgive me for my past crimes, violence, drug use, whatever – I need a program and you, the moral taxpayer, will support it.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  9. Steve Arnold

    Running this article in the Belief Blog pretty much guarantees you'll reach your target audience of Christian wackos who've been following this trial from the start. CNN used to be a news network. This is SLEAZE.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  10. RipVanWinkle

    Yeah right. We should have forgiven Bin Laden as well...

    July 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • ToughBreak

      go back to sleep Rip.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  11. Amy

    THE MEDIA want us to sell the idea about forgiveness hehe. They need us to feed them with rating. $$$$$$$$$$$$ thats what they want.. forgive her because we need to sell books, interviews, maybe a movie... otherwise this article would't be in the front page of CNN... They think we are idiots... noooo I am not going to like her I am not going watch her interviews or buy any books... please find another way to make money...

    July 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  12. Marc

    I am not a lawyer yet we all are forgetting one important point about our legal system; 'reasonable doubt'. 12 Jurors unanimously looked at the evidence and were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty. That’s it folks. It's that simple. She may be guilty but there was not enough evidence to convince 12 randomly chosen people that listened to all the evidence for weeks straight. We need to trust our legal system and understand it better. It is set up to primarily keep us from executing innocent people rather than having a 100% “hit rate’ on the guilty. I frankly am glad to know this system exists and that I am not instead to be judged by the mobs that marched outside the court rooms and are stalking these good citizen jurors. Do you really think you know better than 12 people who sat through weeks of detailed testimony and evidence where ALL agreed together not to convict?

    July 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  13. barnyardog

    What a wasted specimen this woman is… Forgive her? Ha, ha, ha, ha

    July 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  14. mike smarzinski

    I feel the jurors got the wrong verdict. And if the media would stop feeding her more info for her stupid book or movie the interest would go away. and she would show her face and then u would know where she is. she shouldn't make a penny for what she did to her daughter or her family. she wants attention and the media keeps giving it to her. I didn't know u could find a 2 year old in a hot body contest. Did she even go out and help search for Caylee??????????? And the jurors let her go!!! And oh my don't report ur baby missing for 31 days that would only give the body more time to decompose more

    July 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Steve Arnold

    "Because of the constant media coverage the Anthony trial garnered, many people – particularly mothers and women ..."

    The case for forgiveness? CNN and Nancy Grace have been calling for this woman's head for a year. And now she's been found innocent. Yeah, I know. You think she got away with murder.

    CNN has made a boatload of money off Nancy Grace and the Anthony murder trial. If this is your idea of an apology, you must be kidding. Shame on you, CNN.

    BTW, Anthony was found NOT GUILTY therefore presumed INNOCENT. Get over it. Stop raking the coals.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  16. Jim

    I was raised in the faith. That forgiveness is granted to those who repent and then do some form of penance for their sin. That's the major problem with people today, not many seem to repent or ask for forgiveness. Hard to forgive when the person doesn't really have the heart to be broken before God and weep with desire for redemption. Casey Anthony will live with the truth forever. Her demons will haunt her til she dies. She will suffer in great misery for her inability to fall to her knees in sorrow for her sins. And until she repents, there is no forgiveness.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • caylee.anthony

      My mommy has no conscience and will never feel remorse about killing me. That's the world you all live in. Some people do not have the brain chemistry to feel remorse for killing babies. They do not suffer because they are happy for getting away with it. My mommy will get rich by selling a book and for movie deals and she'll live a heaven on earth life of being rich in the US. I'll be almost turned back to dirt in 10 yrs or so while mommy will be partying just like she did after she killed me.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Wes

      Or maybe she didn't do it.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Ash

      The question is "How do you know she has not repented?" Your comment suggests she never will repent–how would anyone but God know? The whole point of the article is that you don't know so you can forgive her for your own well being.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  17. MSfromCA

    Time to move on people. This is how the system works sometimes. Just like OJ, she will end up in jail for something else at some point. These people don't change. The only thing that really makes me upset is the idea of Casey having more kids. Hopefully she realizes she is too selfish for that now.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • ToughBreak

      Whatever she does or doesn't do in future will strictly her business. Fact is.. there isn't anything about Ms Anthony's life, past or present, that was EVER your business to begin with.... you see.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  18. Jane Z.

    I think we should re-direct our rage into revamping our justice system, which is a farce, crippled and corrupt. A great 1st step would be to get rid of the current jury selection games and stop sequestering jurors from the community, a practice that saps their ability to form sound judgments. Those who want justice for Caylee can take comfort. Nothing that has happened to date has addressed Casey's diseased state of mind; consequently, she won't be able to stay out jail long.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Moi

      This is nonsense. If you look it up you will see that over the years a lot of innocent people have been convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Our system is built in ways to try to avoid those situations.
      A jury is better than having just one person deciding on the fate of people. If you ever serve in a jury you will face reality and realize that you can't just convict people on gut feelings, you have to prove the guilt of an accused. Being accused doesn't mean that someone is guilty. Way too often juries have convicted people because of peer pressure. This jury gave a fair trial and since they could not find evidences to convict they chose a not guilty verdict.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  19. caylee.anthony

    Please don't just forgive my mommy. I am buried 6 ft under the ground and my body is rotting instead of being able to party like mommy. I'll never experience any of the joys of life like mommy will have now. Mommy is going to get to experience the heaven on earth life of being one of the rich in america while I'm rotting back to dirt in the ground. I just wish that my dead rotten body could have been in the court room when mommy was aquitted of putting the duct tape over my mouth and nose so that I'd die and she could party more.

    July 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Polly

      You are insane. And stupid. A bad combination.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • kklouisiana

      you sound like someone who could have murdered this child......what a sick post.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Wes

      You seriously have some issues and should seek counseling immediately. Not even joking, something is really wrong with you.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • caylee.anthony

      Why are you mad at me, I'm just a little baby girl whose mommy killed her and I'm actually rotting in the ground. It's not a nice thing to think about that I'm rotting in the ground. It's a lot happier and sweeter to just forgive mommy and go on with your lives. Sorry to have disturbed your quiet mind so badly. So, go back to sleep now and hypnotize yourself into thinking things are ok for you too. bye bye, and say hi to mommy when you see her out partying. I'm going to go back to my rotting now. Wish I could party like you and mommy.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  20. trellie

    There is a belief blog, because there are rights and freedoms for everyone. They have all other kind of blogs and you have a problem with this one?

    July 17, 2011 at 9:34 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.