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. agentz

    also I know here in canada if you don't watch your kid have the proper safetey stuff on doors etc and your kid goes out back and drowns in your pool you are responseable not murder but none intended man slaughter etc. this was her defense that her kid drowned in her pool its not illegal to be a horrible parent and neglect/ignore your toddler to the point they can drown in a pool?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • DC

      That law is garbage.

      We need a new Darwin law that forbids any over-protection in order for nature to properly deal with stupidity.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Andacar

      OK fine DC, let's start it with you.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • DC


      I'd be dead by now by the Darwin law logic. Nice try though.
      See I would have to die by my own stupidity. I certainly am not going to be walking in front of any mack trucks anytime soon.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  2. andrea rokicki

    May GOD be with you casey,but really I know he is cradling Caylee Anthony,.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  3. BS Hunter

    My heart goes out to Caley, but people get murdered in this country every day without all this obsession. One cute little white girl gets killed and the whole world noices all of a sudden? C'mon people.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • DC

      Don't forget all the brown people we're bombing because they might be terrorists in other countries. The system has no respect for life but pretends to care every so often... what a joke.

      Casey is just another example of how the media is a POS.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Kate

      It doesn't really have anything to do with "one cute little white girl". At least not for me. I think that there was more than enough evidence to convict Casey and I think she's guilty. I also think that the murder was premeditated. Casey should, in my opinion, not be walking the streets. It's very disturbing to know that she will be out there in society. She looks cute and sweet to some, but not to me. I think that she is a VERY dangerous person who may just be getting started with killing. When you are capable of doing such a heinous thing as murdering your own child without any remorse, then obviously you could murder anyone. The purpose of the justice system is not just to throw criminals in jail and punish them by taking away their freedom, it's to make sure they can't kill again. In Casey's case the system failed and I hope and pray that she doesn't take anyone else's life. Unfortunately, we will all have to wait and see.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Anafiel

      Kate, in this case the system didn't fail, the jury failed the system.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  4. LOBO

    This is the first time in history that an accident is made to look like a murder.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  5. agentz

    I am not from the USA I am from Canada but why doesn't the USA just torture her to gain info/the truth like they did with all those possible terrorists?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • oyster

      good idea. brb...

      July 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Mary

      This from a country that ships tons of asbestos to third world countries..they even named a twon after it.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  6. MrsC

    I cannot forgive, what I cannot understand. I am not a saint. God help those who's lives she has ruined. God can help the rest of us try to find some kind of understanding. Ultimately Casey is left having to face God and Karma.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Mary

    Corection...There wasn't enough reasonable doubt....the jury thought any doubt was the standard....sorry

    July 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Carl

    Extreme narcissim that results in evil behavior cannot be forgiven or "fixed". Hitlor, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy, and to a lessor extent (for now) Casey Anthony. They need to be removed from society. Her release and the remarks of Mr. Wanis will result in other narcissists "pushing the limit" for their own self absorbed interests...including murder..

    July 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Doug

      Did you just compare Casey Anthony to Hitler? He was responsible for the deaths of millions upon millions of people, be they Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Romanians, Czechs, religious leaders who stood up to him, Brits, French, Americans, etc. How does Casey Anthony stack up to this? I'm sorry, but this goes a bit too far.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  9. Tika

    Is she in danger? Yes. Do I care? No. If I saw her in person I wouldn't do or say anything to her.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  10. Awake America

    Nice Article...Hope Nancy Grace reads this... and stop cursing Casey

    July 16, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  11. agentz

    "But does the anger, revenge and bitterness help bring back Caylee? What positive purpose might it serve?"

    Um lets see if someone kills her it will prevent her from killing another child again? HERP A DERP WRITER FTL!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  12. aacon

    Some people just hate no matter what the law is.The claim to love the law ( go by the law) yet they want to break it when the law does not make them happy.Like serial killers cannot help but kill and kill over and over again these people so attached to this trial which has ended will hate and hate until the day they die.They have the same thing wrong with them killers do except the killing,so far.Give it time and you will (and i hope i`m wrong) see one of these hateful people hurt or cause her damage in some way which some are already doing as fast as they can.They are sick and in the same way when they will strike because they cannot control themselves after being told to let this matter go by the law of the land.

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

      When a corrupt and broken justice system fails to do what is required, the herd has the uncanny knack of thinning the numbers.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  13. Mary

    This women is the most smug, unsympathetic, lying, stealing witch I have ever witnessed....She sat home and refused to work while her mother took care of the baby, what a bum.....She is guilty as sin, and there was more than enough reasonable doubt..

    July 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • BS Hunter

      According to the jury, there was reasonable doubt. You were probably influenced by things they didn't see because they were not admissable evidence. There was no evidence of how Caley died, so that is all the reasonable doubt that is necessary. As for the article above, you can either let it go, or live your life like a bitter old shrew like Nancy Grace.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Remember Caylee

      Well said!

      July 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • kxlinco

      And still, the point of the article is besides knowing all of that to look at Casey and forgive her trespasses, as grievous as they were. No one has any right to punish her outside of the law and holding such judgement in your heart only harms you in the long run.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Mary

      Hey, BS Hunter....Everytime somone invokes Nancy Grace into the conversation, they make a fool of themselves...Also, you don't need motive or cause in any case, also calling me a screw means nothing coming from a bottom feeder like you.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  14. God Bless

    God bless Caylee Anthony and let her become a little angel herself, and let her be watching her dear old mother. May god guide Casey through this very hard procedure of becoming a new woman. Hopfully the surgery is a sucsess, and she will still be living a normal life as before. Who knows what happened to Caylee, though Casey's car smelled like dead body... She was gladly found not guilty. Also I really hope she doesn't continue being a "Party Person" or she will have more like of being guilty, because they might think she's drunk and choose her to be guilty. Luckily a high number of votes encouraged that Casey Anthony was guilty.There were also no remains of Caylee's body in the pool Casey lied about. And that is the story of Casey Anthony and Caylee Anthony

    July 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  15. stacie

    I give her a year before some nut pops her off once she comes parading out of hiding.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  16. Inadaze2

    You know if anyone ever watched the jail house tapes with her parents Casey was always concerned with how the media "perceived her " I hope she knows now CAYLLE will haunt her in her dreams now

    July 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Do not forgive.
    Do not forget.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  18. LOBO

    How does one forgive someone who is NOT remorseful? The day she asks for forgiveness, and tell the truth for once in her life, I might consider that. I will not hold my breath.

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

      What does she need to be forgiven for?

      July 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  19. malinda topping

    How can anyone forgive this cretin when she'll make a million dollars off of her story(more lies???)

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

      And that effects you how? Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.....

      July 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  20. Joleen

    Casey Anthony was not even sterilized so she could not murder more of her own children. There are other cases of women who have done this kind of thing to more than one child... serial killers as it were. It you look at her whole behavioral pattern it fits better with a sociopathic serial killer. Not an ounce of remorse.

    Well, she has her bella vita... and if there is a snake under the woodpile for her to worry about... I won't cry for her. I would feel relief that she won't kill another baby one of these days.

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

      No Joleen she wasn't sterilized because she was acquitted of the crime.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:44 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.