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. RightTurnClyde

    It is difficult to understand the wanton anger .. desire for retribution. Justice was served; she was tried and acquitted. N.Grace viewers were (apparently) manipulated to want a lynching… a fair trial impossible with N.Grace viewers. A trial was held and she was acquitted; what cause for anger? A jury heard the facts and decided she did not murder. The D.A. has many lawyers and nobody has a right to feel cheated... forget it.

    A child (a baby) died; yes. Many people die every day; all loved. Babies die, parents die, children die .. they have accidents or get burned or crushed or drown in swimming pools. Lots of people; loved and missed and grieved. Next week 1,000 will die in cars. Kids will drown in pools. People will fall off buildings. Workers will get killed or hurt on the job. That’s life.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Cindy Stepherson

      Now that's the way to get people thinking......

      July 18, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • John Richardson

      So I take it that you accept the OJ verdict 100%?

      I agree that the lynch mob mentality is horribly counterproductive. But when people honestly feel that the system failed, they will get angry. It would no doubt be better for most to simply move on. But I also fully expect that people largely will move on. Very, very few people will make this case anything like a long term obsession.

      But consider another case: Many people feel that justice was never served in the JFK assassination. While the vast majority of the people are indeed long "over it", some people feel that they have strong grounds for believing that this or that specific person got away with murder and they are NOT "over it" and no doubt never will be. As long as they aren't actually attempting to mete out private justice, it is their perfect right not to just shriug and move on.

      July 18, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Lou

      The jury did not say that she did not murder Caylee; they said that it wasn't proven. NOT GUILTY DOES NOT MEAN INNOCENT!!!!!! WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!

      July 18, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      "a fair trial impossible with N.Grace viewers."
      -- The "viewers" of N Grace did not try Ms. Anthony. The jury did. They were sequestered.
      It WAS appalling that a former officer of a court has so little apparent knowledge of the US justice system. But those veiwers are responsible for themselves and are NOT "victims" of HLN.
      -- Hard to say that a vilified woman with no money, no job, the object of multiple civil legal proceeding, fleeing a ravenous mob, hiding out, estranged from her family, a national pariah "got away" with much of anything.

      July 18, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  2. Reality

    Forgive? Maybe. Forget?? Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  3. ruthless-bastud

    Hey Casey, let's have some fun when you get your millions. Caylee, come back as a butterfly.

    July 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • ruthless-bastud

      I totally forgive you Casey. When you get your money let's party. Babies are overrated. Maybe Caylee will come back as a butterfly.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  4. F. Weed

    @ mrknowitall


    u mad bro?

    July 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • mrknowitall

      Not at all, I'm amused though. It's not my baby.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  5. F. Weed

    @ mrknowitall

    com·pe·tent/ˈkämpətənt/Adjective1. Having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully.
    2. (of a person) Efficient and capable.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Suzie McKay

    I think Patrick's article is aiming us in the right direction. It is not up to us to judge Casey. The jury has already done that. Holding on to that anger hurts no one but ourselves. We would be better off helping out other children who are at risk. We could make donations in Caylee;s memory to children's homes, hospitals, charities, etc. Can you imagine the impact we could make if we channeled our feelings in a positive way? Volunteer, help single mothers, help disadvantaged children. I am sure there are those living close to us who could use our help. Casey was found not guilty, and deserves to live her lfe. We have to let go and let GOD. Let's take the emphasis off Casey and put it back on Caylee. Let's be Caylee's earth angels and promise her to honor her memory by being remembered for our good deeds and get moving and stop watching those who try to fuel the fire. We cannot change the past, but we can bring about change in the future.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  7. F. Weed

    The wrath of humanity embodied in this angry mob is so much that God doesn't even need to do anything. Why does everyone assume they know the truth, why does everyone think they are God? Emotions and assumptions aren't conducive to knowledge. A jury of 12 competent citizens found a person not guilty; this should be good enough for you. No one is omniscient.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • mrknowitall

      Competent? You need a dictionary.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  8. caylee.anthony

    This writer is a true human behavior genius and wrote "When we feel injured we respond or react automatically with anger. When someone hurts us, we automatically want to hurt that person back.". WOW oh WOW, that is true GENIUS!!! No one would have ever known it was all that easy. THANK YOU!!! You must have studied for years to know all that stuff.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • J.W

      I think your real mommy should come and get you off of the computer. It is probably your bed time.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • caylee.anthony

      @jw – it is immature of you to try to make yourself feel good by downgrading others. You need to discuss your issues with a pro.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • J.W

      I am the one with issues? You are the one making fun of a dead child.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • caylee.anthony

      @jw – You are not a true believer then? You believe in God but you don't believe this is actually me? I am caylee anthony, I am not acting like I am caylee. This is me.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • J.W

      Christians generally do not believe in reincarnation.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  9. caylee.anthony

    The truth hurts very much. So just forgive my mommy and forget me and go on with your lives and please just be happy. I'm going back to my only pasttime now of rotting. See some of you some day in heaven. bye bye...

    July 17, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Joe Black

    I watched that trail for 6 weeks and the only crying she did was for her self. She had a stone face every day and she could not look at her handy work she did. She's as cold as hot ice!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  11. die

    you are all f a g g o t s

    July 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  12. ThePublicIsNotEvaKor

    Apparently, this is a comment for CNN since CNN refuses to post my critique regarding Patrick Wanis' UNBELIVABLY LAME article.

    It's easy to riddle holes in Wanis' article with facts regarding Eva Kor and Holocaust history.

    CNN & Wanis, why don't you watch Kor's movie 'Forgiving Dr. Mengele'. You're using Kor for your own means rather than respecting Kor & the Holocaust.

    Casey Anthony, Eva Kor, the Holocaust, & the public do not belong together in the same article.

    It's time I took a break from CNN. This journalism is too low brow for me.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  13. Leonie

    ...and to you....ditto!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  14. cmcFL

    Casey will have to ask for forgiveness for her sins. It is not my place to forgive her because she hasn't done anything to me personally. I will ask forgiveness for the sins I have committed. Asking God to forgive her is not my place. She has to be responsible for her own relationship with God. The anger the world feels towards this woman is justified. Even Jesus had righteous anger when He became angry at the money changers and turned over the tables in the synagogues. Jesus does not like sin and expects us to speak against it. No harm should come to Casey Anthony by any means. But to stop people from speaking their minds is wrong. It's not healthy for someone to hold in their feelings. They should be respectfully expressed. And, it's our right under the First Amendment to have freedom of speech and the right to a peaceful assemble and the right to make a complaint to our government.. Again, with respect. Many are writing their senators and congressmen as we speak with complaints about the profit that the jurors, Casey, her family and her attorneys could make from this trial. Laws need to be in place to stop that. But, to ask us to forgive Casey, no. That is not anyone's responsibility but Casey to ask God for that. She didn't kill my daughter.....she killed hers.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  15. I-DO

    You can't handle the truth, so you forgive.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  16. I-DO

    This definitely taught me to just lie and you can get away with anything. People that are honest are stupid in the US. If you don't lie big time in the US you are an idiot. Lying works and that is no lie. The truth sucks big time!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • NHTK - 12

      I've seen it long time ago that US is no other then haven for criminals. If you have $$$$ you can get by with anything... This woman may not had $$$$$ , but you can bet your bottom George on it, $$$$$ were in site all the time....
      ......Yes, you're right, life in US is a nightmare for honest and decent people!! Liars, thieves , murderers, gangsters ,and all kind of low-lifers are protected by the "mockery – off- what – we've – have – left of" our Consti-tution

      July 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • J.W

      Even if the client may not have money the attorney might want to be involved in high profile cases, for name recognition, and book deals, etc

      July 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  17. The acuser

    So... How much did they pay you for this article?

    July 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  18. Leonie

    Is it about forgiveness?
    I agree with this report, without forgiveness it's difficult for everyone to move on. What I disagree with is; that it isn't just a simple case of fogiveness. It's about injustice. It's about a legal system that has failed in protecting the innocent, and being allowed to make a mockery of TRUTH.
    These people have taken an oath, and sworn to GOD the truth will be told, yet this trial was nothing short of a 'B' grade mystery movie, that reveiled the "bad guy" from the beginning. It was a play on words, lies, and for the majority to be made to look the fool.
    BUT!..when you are not a fool, when you believe in dieing for nothing else but the truth, it projects upon a whole society who believes in love, honesty, and justice.
    This is nothing more than an example of how our generation, shows by example- a future we allow our children to follow suit.
    It's a personal injustice against all of us.
    As generations progress, so does our intelligence, our understanding about right, and wrong, and our desires, and needs to find the true meaning of life. It's not about a system that has invented it's own policies, and rules, so therefor you must abide.
    Casey may not have been convicted, because of the lack of concrete eveidence, but even the most uneducated parent knows when thier child lies to them.
    I recall a time when I was 13 years old, and my parents allowed myself, and friends to go to the cinemas on our own to watch a movie. We decided to go to a local food outlet beforehand, and smoke cigarettes while we were there. As it happenned, our mother's drove by, and saw us smoking. We forged a plan to tell them that if they confronted us, it must have been the steam coming fom the hot chicken we were eating;)
    Now, if we got away with this story, which we did not. What respect do you think we would have for our 'stupid' parents today?
    Would it prove to us that by lieng, we were actually smarter...therefor justifying our rightousness, and trust that our parents actually loved us enough to care??????
    This of course is a rhetorical question.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • The acuser


      July 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • ToughBreak

      Why is this media circus of a televised trial and verdict any concern of yours??....... Would you want the outcome of YOUR trial pre-determined by the likes of Nancy Grace and Crew?.......... because that is exactly what has happened in this case!!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  19. caylee.anthony

    When mommy gets rich from selling a book please say hi to her from me when you see her out partying. I'm going to go back to rotting now six feet under. bye bye, see some of you in heaven later.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  20. Joe Black

    Hmmmm boy, Murder is Murder no matter how you want to look at it. Does 6 or 7 make it wrong? I guess 1 murder is ok with you. You forgive her!

    July 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Bruce

      Pssst Joe: Casey Anthony didn't murder her daughter. Just thought you'd like to know.

      July 19, 2011 at 2:05 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.