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. Fred

    Why do "we" need to forgive Casey? She didn't do anything to me personally. I was shocked and saddened by the verdict, emotions which gave way to a mild depression for about a week, which is surprising because I'm never depressed. But forgiveness? That's nonsense. Forgiveness is like wishing on a star, it's a fairy tale. Move on with your life, that's what I did.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Kealia

      I've never watched Nancy Grace. I watched Casey Anthony...and I think she killed her daughter.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  2. J.W

    Alot of Nancy Grace followers commenting on this article

    July 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Inadaze2

      Yes and a Lot of the defence team TOO !!!!!

      July 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Mary

      Everytime someone invokes Nanct Grace into the conversdation, they make themselves look stupid....I and many other people don't watch or care about Nancy Grace..I simply watched the trial like many others....

      July 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • J.W

      I remember one case she was talking about. A child was murdered and of course the only possible conclusion is that the mother did it. She interviewed the detective investigating the case and he refuted everything she had just said.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  3. Really?!

    Casey Anthony is NOT guilty,she has done nothing wrong except lying to the cops.Though she is sent to jail for about a week, she isn't in there forever so she will rebegin her life with a plastic surgery costing about $75,000.00. Though it is a lot, she has enough money to pay for it. It is a lot of money to spend, but it is worth it if she will begin a new life with better hopes than lying.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Joleen

      She needs to remove that Bella Vita tattoo if she wants to be incognito.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • stacie

      LoL – Bleeding Heart Lib.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • ArizonaYankee

      A child is dead, and she knows what happened, and has lied and deceived everyone. You need to stop with you liberal forgiveness bull, and hold her accountable. Death penelty, maybe not, but lots of jail time yes. She is no angel, and people like you and her inept jury are no help to our legal system.....

      July 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • StuckInThisTwilight

      What reality are you in? Providing we are to believe her lawyers and the story they spun, she -knew- her daughter was dead and rotting in the woods, and she hit up the local hot body contest. Not guilty by the letter of the law and perfectly innocent are two very, very different things. I want to say 'duh' but that is so 90's. And Stacie, there is nothing 'lib' about that poster, it's more like delusional and/or in love with the baby killer.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Inadaze2

      Really ... I mean really

      July 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  4. David from FL

    It's pretty scary to know that some morons are warming up to this b1tch. The reason people are so passionate is because a child was murdered! The evidence was clear that Casey did it. All those who want to forgive her are heartless morons that probably don't have kids and shouldn't have kids. It's OKAY to hate a person that killed their kid and wrapped their body with duct tape– I think that is the feeling that most people should have.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Tia

      If you want to continue to grow the hate and anger that you feel for something that did not affect you, go ahead. The only person you are affecting is you and your own family. Is it worth being filled with anger towards Casey when you could instead be trying to do something positive for yourself and the people that actually should matter to you? Because Casey Anthony doesn't give a rat's rear-end about you drowning in your own vitriol.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • AJ

      Yes, a child was killed. However, a jury of her peers said she was not guilty. This family is so screwed up. They all need help. Anger will not bring her back and attacking her mother is not going to help matters. Everyone needs to get on with there lives and start to heal and move forward.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  5. Carol

    The prosecutions evidence showed enough reason for guilt of accidently ending her little girls life by chloroform, etc. to me. I wasn't on the jury, but if I had been I wouldn't have budged on this opinion. I feel nothing personal about this woman, I have no reason to. It's one more sad case in America. If her past dictates her future she'll have problems.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  6. johnie

    a little girl is dead, and proof of murder or not, negligence was clearly evident, and i would go further and say that this mother did have a part in HER little girls murder....., and we should just forgive..., -this psychologist needs to check their head...

    July 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tia

      You should have your head checked by a psychologist. What gives you the right to hate someone you don't know who did nothing to you or your family? Turn off Nancy Grace once in a while and think for yourself, and try filling your heart with some love and kindness for the people that should matter to you instead of projecting so much hate.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • David from FL

      I agree Johnie. Unfortunately, some people in this forum are morons who want to forgive. They should all go on a forgiving spree and forgive Hitler, Bin Laden, Scott Peterson, Charles Manson, and many other famous murderers (dead or alive). I agree we should all move on, but we should never forget and never forgive murderers.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  7. TA

    JW –

    Defamation? Really? Defamation – is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image.

    You really think what Nancy Grace has said is the only thing that has given Casey Anthony a negative image? Wow. You are as lost as she is.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • J.W

      I didnt say she was the only thing, but she was the one accusing her of murder 2 years before she was even brought to trial.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  8. Katy

    I'm going to leave religion and politics aside, even though you must be familiar with forgiveness for each. I have never seen such a parody of justice- Nancy Grace following every move of Casey Anthony after the 911 call from Cindy. This is a great example of faulty evidence handling and poor prosecution. It should have been a solid case, in my opinion- but they blew it and Casey walks, free to make cash in drama-thirsty Hollywood. Every time you click on a link associated with Casey Anthony, you are supporting her. Every time you comment on a topic about Casey Anthony, or anything related to the case, someone is recording it. Then they play back just how much bullS#it gets recorded about that topic. The very thing that is allowing Casey Anthony to walk free (media confusion), is happening right now, as I type. We are all supporting her ratings...so unless you're some idiot troll that has no idea what this case is about, we should all consider that.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • AJ

      I agree with what you are saying about Nancy Grace. I think that she is totally out of control with this trial. Get a life get over it already. She was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. I have always believed that she was involved somehow in this coverup and death of a little baby girl. However, I have said from the very beginning that she would not be convicted. Let this go. Lets move forward on to something else. We have all made mistakes in our lives. No one has the right to avenge anyones death.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  9. nelly10

    The incompetent jury found her innocent, so what are we supposed to forgive?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • drc

      Forgive a not guilty person? This is something new. This little liar was found NOT guilty as charged, wasn't she? Why can't you people accept this?

      July 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  10. Tracy W

    Even though it is better to forgive someone, I think we all need some time to get over the verdict that we feel is wrong. I don't agree with anyone taking the law into their own hands, either. Time heals all wounds. Give us some time.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  11. TexTeacher

    In my book its like forgiving the likes of Adolf Hitler, no remorse.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  12. kEl

    I'm with you Mirabella

    July 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  13. Mamey

    Nice piece. A waste of e-ink, but a nice piece. I'm now wadding it up, and throwing it in the e-trash. I hope she dies.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  14. Zorn

    Nazi references seem to pop up in the darndest places.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  15. sharon

    no matter what i think about her guilt or innocence, in the u.s., when a person is declared innocent by jury, the case rests. no individual person has the right to cause her to fear for her life. those who would, or those who do, are acting outside the law. it's over. right or wrong.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • give your head a shake

      She was found not guilty. Not the same as being found innocent.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  16. Ronnie Elberth

    Forgivness for her killing her daughter and geting away with it. Never, but I won't harm her I will leave her justice to God.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  17. cantilever

    Generally, forgiveness is a blessing on all sides. However, I'd love to see Tot Mom torn limb from limb and fed to crocodiles.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  18. krissmith777

    Some people fail to recognize one fact: Even if we should forgive her (I certainly have not), that does not mean she should be let off the hook. The fact she got away with murder makes it harder for me to forgive her at all....as if I would have anyway.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  19. LK2

    Is he for real? Of course nothing will bring Caylee back. It's never about "bringing the person back". We just want justice when justice is warranted. In this case, Casey in most people's mind, IS guilty of Caylee's murder. This child did not die "by accident". Since when do you put duct tape on a dead body that "accidentally drowned"? Just because there was no cause of death was a very weak reason for acquittal. I think the jury just wanted it to be over. I wonder if this therapist would be so quick to forgive if his daughter was murdered?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  20. mlr

    WRONG! It is time for Americans to stop putting up with this idiotioc jury nonsense of releasing criminals because of zoo-court craziness.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:16 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.