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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. dima

    Thank you for your wise words, Dr. Wanis.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  2. Dick Hertz

    This sorry excuse for a human will always be as guilty as O.J.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  3. gloria joy

    No, this man is wrong. We cannot forgive, nor do we want to. Caylee's memory is worth more than forgiving a murderess. Casey Anthony will stand face to face at Judgement Day in front of God with precious little Caylee looking on. Casey will not be able to lie or deceive her way out of that one. With God's grace I will be there too. Then I will forgive her as she will have faced final and 'just' judgement which those flawed jurors could not give.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Esther Smith

      The fact that you still assert God's wrathful judgement on Casey, but refuse to exert Christian forgiveness only demonstrates your hypocrisy. If God is all wonderful and powerful and truly existent–which I sincerely doubt and don't believe in–then let him do the judging! Forgive, because you have no more control over Casey's future through Christianity than without.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • dima

      Shame on you, gloria joy...how DARE you speculate on how God will determine anyone's fate? Those who truly trust in God trust in His judgement. If you are really working towards His grace, you will leave judgements of Ms.Anthony and the jurors to Him.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • 6000years

      God is a kid with an ant farm. We're on our own.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • tinyprof

      No human being can second-guess God's judgment. He will forgive her if he chooses to, whether she is sorry or not. And if, in the end of things, God is more of a sense of consciousness than an old man with a beard, It may be that Casey Anthony will enjoy the peace of oneness with the universe–in itself a form of forgiveness because in such a state there is no suffering. For us, it should be neither here nor there. Casey Anthony's relationship with God is hers alone. My task is to think, "What if I forgive her?" "What if I don't?" If I look to the Gospel, I may see answers that don't make me feel good but which will ultimately improve my relationship with God in the long run. That is more important than being mad at a woman I don't know and have never met, who I only know through media gossip. Her acts are outrageous–but how mad should I be, really? Should I be so angry that I put my own soul in jeopardy?

      July 17, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • frank

      @gloria joy
      "Casey Anthony will stand face to face at Judgement Day in front of God with precious little Caylee looking on. Casey will not be able to lie or deceive her way out of that one. With God's grace I will be there too. Then I will forgive her as she will have faced final and 'just' judgement which those flawed jurors could not give."
      -Your sense of your own importance in cosmic dramas is possibly a mite inflated lol.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Deona Lindholm

      @gloria joy "Judge not, least ye be judged". May God have mercy on your soul.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  4. Gwen

    Really?

    We should forgive Casey Anthony?

    What a misguided article. I can, however forgive the author for writing such rubbish.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  5. PGp

    Where is all of this rage and anger when a mother kills her own child by abortion?

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

      TRUE....

      July 17, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • DC

      Great point.

      Just legalize killing people. Might as well. We have a population problem.

      Call it the darwin law.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Kate

      I don't like abortion and I wish people would stop having abortions. I could never do it myself...but come on, having an abortion is in NO way similar to knocking out your living, breathing and talking child with chloroform and duct taping her mouth until she suffocates to death. My sister thinks that Casey watched Caylee squirm around while she was suffocating to make sure that she was dead. That's pretty freaking heinous.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • DC

      "My sister thinks"

      Ok then. case solved. I'm convinced now.

      Your speculation and a dollar won't even get you a dollar menu item without the tax.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • 6000years

      If Casey was responsible, she could have had an abortion instead of wanting to play mommy. Caylee would have suffered much less.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Kealia

      You had to bring up abortion. Really?

      July 17, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  6. Tumak

    Forgive a baby killer? What an idiot.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • DC

      Hey now!

      That baby was dangerous. Evil babies... Glowing red eyes and diaper WMDs. Might as well be AlQuada... Oh wait AlQueda is our friend in Libya now.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  7. Frank S

    Forgiveness is for people who have wronged you directly, not somebody you do not know and wouldn't be able to recognize if you walked past them on a busy street. If you are worried about whether you are capable of forgiving Casey Anthony, you have another problem – you are incredibly full of yourself.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • DC

      Oh if I saw her I'd recognize her. I'd be like:

      "Hey wanna get it on!?" you know that she'll be open to an abortion! oh I'm disgusting.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Frank S

      Disgusting but funny. Well done, DC. Cheers

      July 17, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  8. Patricia

    OK, if we submit to this doctor's way of thinking, let's all forgive Scott Peterson, Susan Smith and other child killers. If it will make the doctor* feel* better, let them all go back into society. No one has the right to tell others how they are suppose to *feel* about this God-awful miscarriage of justice.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • 6000years

      good!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  9. LOBO

    All of you singing her praises, advocating for her, you better pray to God no other human dies at her hands.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • DC

      Oh I think she'll be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion before that happens. I don't think it is right but this is the world today. She will likely be accosted and possibly killed at the hands of her detractors. I hope not but I suspect she will.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  10. luke

    How come there was no talk of forgiveness for OJ? She definitely would NOT have gone free if she wasn't a pretty white girl.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  11. peter mas

    This article is 100% BS...

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

      Ha! The media is mostly BS.

      Public opinion is like a mob of torch and pitchfork yokels.

      People's minds are like jello.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  12. Marty

    Fellows like Dr. Wanis give "forgiveness" a bad name.

    We have not been wronged, Dr. Wanis. We have nothing to forgive or not forgive. It would be presumptuous to "forgive" someone who has not injured us. The only person who did that was ... Jesus ... who was not the soft touch you think. Remember what he said about scribes and pharisees and lawyers? He told the woman taken in adultery "Go and sin no more." He didn't say, "If you love him, honey, that's all that matters."

    Forgiveness does not mean giving a free pass. It does not mean letting all the prisoners out of jail. It doesn't mean refusing to hold people accountable for what they have done, or failed to do.

    If forgiveness is not balanced by justice, it is mere weakness and New Age soft-headedness. Where there is no justice, there can be no mercy. Virtues balance each other on a tightrope.

    It is easy for you to "forgive" the people in this case. You get the warm, gushy self-righteous feeling that you are a good person, without the tough gritty work that will be involved with those who have to deal with this misguided woman, for the rest of her life.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • DC

      I thought GOD forgives all those who are repentant. I figure when you're looking at GOD after you kick the bucket everyone immediately becomes completely repentant.. well most people.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  13. Teena

    I have stated all along that I agree with the jury's verdict...I was not there when Caylee died; and if Casey in fact, killed her daughter; it was not proven to me...
    I have found the actions of all those who are Against Casey in the last months- weeks, days... appauling.
    People have No Compassion... while I agree, that a Child is gone– it is not up to ME to Judge... I wasn't a Juror... and to those who continue to hold Casey to blame– While it may be possible that she did kill the child- Do you know it for a FACT...?
    Are you So Ready to Condemn someone without ABSOLUTE PROOF.... I am not. I strongly agree with Dr. Wanis' viewpoint.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Patricia

      Teena, ABSOLUTE PROOF wasn't the jury's burden. Beyond a reasonable doubt was their burden. A blind person could have followed the evidence.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • DC

      Patricia wants to have a semantics argument. Blah. What a joke.

      She's acquitted. Leave her the F alone.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • noforgiveness

      So it only happens if you can prove? What if you can't prove but a child ends up dead? She was the mother, the child disappeared while under her care. What else needs to be said? This forensics little game is disgusting. The facts speak for themselves and we know how the "justice" system goes. She played her cards and got away with murder. Her smile in court said it so clearly. Every cell in her body is filled with pure cynicism. There are sociopaths out there, you know. But we seem to still be having a hard time framing them.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Anafiel

      The problem here is that the jury DIDN'T do their job. Haven't you read the interviews with the jurors? They didn't consider the evidence. They went on feelings...like Jose B was "nicer" than Jeff A. What a crock! It was easier to acquit her than to convict her. Got them home earlier also. The jurors were a bunch of selfish, lazy idiots. Plain and simple. I've been following this case from the first day, and I watched every single moment of the trial. The evidence was there, and now a child killer is free. I hope you are happy.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • DC

      noforgiveness,

      By your logic if a mother makes a mistake and loses her beloved child destroying both their lives... she shouls also be incarcerated and fined.

      Casey Anthony's case is setting a very dangerous precedent and is certainly not par for the course.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • flower12

      Wow. Your IQ must be low.

      July 17, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Kealia

      Just something for you to think about: if Casey had reported her daughter missing ASAP, there would have been a possibility of finding Caylee. Casey IS responsible for her daughter's death. Even if Caylee drowned in the pool as the defense contends, it's negligent homicide. Either way you spin it, Casey is responsible for Caylee's death. I'm not sure why she's not being held accountable. Oh that's right, people are rarely held accountable for their actions.

      July 17, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  14. Freddy Hart

    I wonder how many were able to forgive Osama Bin Laden.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Teena

      Mr. Hart, Clearly Osama bin Laden and Casey Anthony have absolutely Nothing in Common. Osama bin Laden is a MASS MURDERER. To my Knowledge Casey Anthony never killed anyone....she was acquitted. Forgiving Osama bin Laden... in the name of GOD is possible... but, I expect that GOD WILL FORGIVE ME, if I DON'T.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • DC

      OBL... I mean Tim Osman... er uh the Mujahadeen CIA asset we used against Russia in the 80's... er ... Not the same Bin Ladens involved in GW Bushe's Arbusta oil deal ....

      The lame bogeyman? He's a joke. Casey's a real person who's been acquitted.. I guess the law only applies when you agree with it.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  15. noforgiveness

    i don't believe in forgiveness at all. i forgave a womanizing husband for 20 years and he never understood nor valued my forgiveness. it just gave him the assurance that i was a forgiving idiot. zero tolerance is a better policy. you should never forget what certain people were and will be forever capable of doing to you. when you least expect, they will strike you again. this woman is a monster, a player. it i were her mother, i would never talk to her again.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Deona Lindholm

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  16. BCA

    You cannot forgive someone who refuses to tell the truth.

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

      HA good one. Ever heard of congress... oh they get away with it every day.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • noforgiveness

      absolutely. the wisest statement in all comments. very few people have the courage to admit their mistakes, therefore very few people deserve forgiveness. emotional pain can be close to unbearable, worst than physical pain because it does not go away with an aspirin. being the victim of an emotional abuser, i can tell you that forgiveness can't happen if the other party will never admit to their mistakes.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  17. AHanson

    It isn't up to me or anyone else here to forgive Casey for killing her daughter. Yes, I said she killed her. I have no doubt that this woman, whether intentionally or intentionally, killed her child. She is the one who needs to look for forgiveness and not from the general public but from those she wronged. But moreso.. she needs to forgive herself. Most likely she's living in a delusion that she is innocent or "not guilty". It's all just so sad.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  18. Michelle

    I don't like this article at all. it's icky and misguided. The people who are passionate about the Casey Anthony verdict are ALSO active in trying to help children everywhere. Anger toward Casey and her LIES are what fueled Caylee's Law. People have a right to be really angry and concerned that this girl got off, lied her way through it all, the defense attorneys lied, and the idiot jury fell for it. To just say "Just forgive, everyone, and it will all be fine" is disgusting. I am against the death penalty but this girl should be in prison for life. To tell people to not feel their anger about this and "just forgive" is gross. Anger gets people involved to change things. This article is way too condescending and is very poorly timed. The author doesn't seem to think that we should have "feelings" about something so hideous as the murder of this little girl, and Casey lying about everything. Jesus was about forgiveness, but He was also about HONESTY. He called people on their cr*p. Nancy Grace is a perfect example. She is so passionate about this case, but she is also very involved in helping kids everywhere.

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

      Thanks Michelle, you said it better than I.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • DC

      Last thing we need is another law... of course this case is bad but the law WILL be abused.

      More rigid "protections" means less discipline and more pampering. The kids of the future will be even brattier than ever.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  19. me again

    FORGIVE the mother for KILLING her little baby???? I DON'T THINK SO!! Where are the anti abortion people on this one? Or, maybe because Caylee was already born she doesn't count?)

    July 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • DC

      You people frothing at the mouth over this had better start frothing over the people we're murdering overseas. If not then you're hypocrites and will likely die of bowel disorders.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • I

      You're right, she doesn't count.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  20. Moleman

    Did Casey Anthony ever asked to be forgiven? And who could she ask: the person she, at minimum, neglected and, at worst, murdered, is dead. The victim has no voice save for that twisted by litigators. It is not our place to forgive Casey Anthony any more than it is our place to judge her, for none of us outside (or likely inside) that courtroom know all the facts. But we must demand our system of justice be vigilant, transparent, and introspective. And question it when it appears to fail. Clearly, based on her behavior before and after incarceration, Casey Anthony has a great number of "issues" that beckon scrutiny/monitoring; for the public welfare and the service of justice.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:48 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.