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. swelljoe

    how DARE you compare cretin anthony to those who suffered at the hands of the nazi's

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

    Oh, just one more thing. Let me ask all you who are so "forgiving" of Casey Anthony. Would YOU let Casey babysit YOUR child? Would YOU trust her?

    July 17, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • DC

      nope just a FK or a HJ or a BJ. No kids for her.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Pepperann

      I truly believe that I can and will forgive Casey Anthony for any wrong doing she has done (and I definitely think she has done some). I will forgive her for my own relief and peace, but just because I will forgive her doesn't mean I want her to babysit my grandchildren or have lunch with her. I can tell I haven't forgiven her yet because I still very tied to all of this but I will forgive.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  3. Darrel

    What is it we for which we are to forgive Casey Anthony? The murder she says she didn't commit? How can anyone forgive a person for something that person did not do? Do you remember that Richard Nixon accepted a pardon for crimes he said he did not commit? That is not possible and I cannot forgive Casey Anthony for something she hasn't done.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  4. Dave

    Casey Anthony should BURN IN HELL for killing her little daughter!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  5. Done

    Forgiveness is different from paying a price for your guilt. Casey has to pay a price for her guilt no matter what. I am not judging Casey but as long as she did it she will pay a price. God will not let someone go unpunished for his mistakes. You rip what you sow.Sooner or later we all will see that. The thing which amazes me is that Casey is smiling when she was acquitted. It is shame that means what about her two year old baby ? She never cared before and she never cared for her even now. What matters to her is her acquittal not her baby whom she took her life.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  6. bluerocker14

    This woman has no remorse; has shown no emotion toward her deceased daughter & whose actions speak loudly that she cares for no one except herself. These are not exaggerations. They are facts thrown at the face of the public by Casey Anthony & her so-called Dream Team of attorneys.

    Casey Anthony may be a high school dropout but she is highly intelligent and extremely manipulative. The Great State of Florida lost its case against her. Casey Anthony has been in protective custody these past 3 years. Now that she has her freedom, she will remain protected by her attorney, Jose Baez. There are many who think justice will catch up with her. I am not so sure. I can't get my hopes up any more. My guess is that she will be flown to either New York, Puerto Rico or an island in the Caribbean to lay low & review the offers she will receive to make money off her crime.

    Whether or not she murdered her child, she is 100% guilty of not reporting her child missing & would NEVER have told a soul had Cindy Anthony not inquired. There is no doubt in my mind that Casey Anthony placed her daughter Caylee in garbage bags and threw her in the swamp to rot & be eaten by animals.

    The videos of Caylee show her to have been a sweet little girl. The last video of her peacefully laying against her great granddad & singing while looking at a book breaks my heart.

    Casey Anthony and her attorneys are vile human beings. I have no forgiveness in my heart for Ms. Anthony and no respect whatsoever for the conduct of her attorneys during and after her trial. I am sure there is much more vile behavior to come from all of them. The innocent child victim totally forgotten as they hunger for their fame and fortune.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Done

      Very good point

      July 17, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  7. guest

    Let it go. Get a life–this includes Nancy Grace. It is highly obvious why Grace continues ragging and agitating the public–she has made an enormous amount of money off this child's death. Obviously Grace is more interested in lining her pockets than she is in anything else. Casey Anthony was found not guilty. As the jury put it not guilty does not mean innocent. She is going to have to live with the knowledge of what happened with her daughter the rest of her life. Let it go and focus on your own life.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • Done

      Nancy Grace has her own opinion and I agree with Nancy. She is a talk show host and that is her job.I don't know why you worry about Nancy making money. But what about Casey who is going to make money over her dead child? Have you seen this ? PITY

      July 17, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  8. J. L. Gray

    She murdered Cayley. At the very least, she caused the death of that little girl. When you are guilty, you lie and it has been shown over and over Casey lies. Please look closer at the last few months of the pictures of that poor little toddler. She may be smiling but her eyes look fearful, like she is afraid of someone. It is haunting to me. It looks like she is being told "Smile" but her eyes look afraid. Don't ask us to forgive Casey any more than ask us to forgive OJ. She killed her baby because that little girl was getting in the way of her life. After her daughter "disappeared" what did she do? She partied and slept around!!! And now is she screaming for justice for her daughter? Haven't heard a word from her about that!! By killing Caylee she got to punish her parents and rid herself of a burdensome child at the same time. This is one very evil sociopathic girl who abuses her parents, her brother and ultimately her daughter, the weakest of them all. She got away with killing a beautiful, innocent child. She is evil! The only thing she did differently is she didn't strap her child into a car seat and roll the car into the lake. She was smarter than that. How can her parents even be in the same room with her because they do know the truth. The only thing I truly believe is when she is older she will start to realize what she has done and then the inner torture will begin. With that mother Caylee was a doomed little girl.

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

      Very well said! Unfortunately, she is a Sociopath and does not have a conscience. I don't think that she will ever feel any inner torture.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  9. Sayward

    Did Casey, just one time say, "I didn't kill my daughter!" Did she let anyone know the moment, the second, the instant her daughter went "missing"? Why did she lie about the non-existent "nanny"? Why did she lie to her parents, her friends, her boyfriend? Why did she go out and party for a whole month before going to the police? Did she kill her daughter? I say she did! Can I prove it? No, but her actions are a strong indicator of her guilt, be it murder or just neglect. Casey is going to make money on this, you wait and see. Which talk show will she appear on first? Leno? Letterman? Nancy Grace? This whole thing is a travesty! We are sending people to jail, to prison, for years, for far lesser crimes than murder. Should I forgive Casey? No! Never! This woman shed nothing but crocodile tears for her child. Little Caylee is dead. Now "mama" can rebuild her life and party on! It's what she wanted in the first place! Oh, and did you notice how unemotional she was in court and how all happy happy smiles she was when she was acquitted? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

    July 17, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  10. aacon

    Now you get a really good idea of why so many innocents are in prison.Some will just vote someone guilty because someone is put in a courtroom as guilty of something.Works almost every time.People just hope to God your never put in a courtroom as guilty when your innocent no matter who you are.The prosecutions job is to prove you guilty no matter what they personally think when brought before them.And at the end of the day they care less if you are guilty or not as long as they get a conviction. No bull !

    July 17, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  11. IcantbelievethisGuy

    "What if the thousands of angry people devoted that energy to helping mothers and children who have been abused or battered?"

    Or what if, instead of believing the convicted liar – that we use this opportunity, to understand that women murder their children. Just as the O.J. trial brought attention to the issue of abusive husbands, why wouldn't this trial bring attention to the issue of abusive mothers and wives.

    These people are so twisted, that whenever a child is murdered or a husband gets his penis sliced off – they want to help the female abusers and not the victims.

    At some point, some where, some how – we need a bit of balance in the country.

    The problem of abuse will never be solved completely, until someone opens their eyes – and sees the full problem of abuse – which is – women are sometimes quite abusive. Not victims – but abusers, leaving victims in their wake.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  12. tinyprof

    The Gospel doesn't put stipulations on forgiveness in order to emphasize the difficulty of the concept. The reason why Jesus tells his followers to forgive seven times seventy times is because they keep asking about the variables. Forgiveness is extremely difficult because we want to know whether the person is truly sorry, whether he/she will offend again, whether it will "count" for us in the afterlife. But the Gospel presents a lot of "stealth difficulties" like this one–concepts that seem simple but which present huge challenges. With people like serial killers, child molesters, Nazis, etc. Those challenges almost dare us to deny our humanity. They threaten to suspend our own feelings of self-worth and strength. We feel weakened, defeated by evil which we believe it is right to fight. But that's why Jesus keeps upping the ante, finally saying seventy times seventy times, and more. When it's the right thing to do we have to do it anyway, for its own sake, not for our own selves. But this feels awful. We feel cheated and deprived of justice. But we are also reminded that Pride and Anger are dangerous vices which, if we allow them to control us to the point where they replace our obligations to the Gospel, then we are in as much spiritual danger as Casey Anthony or anyone else. That doesn't seem fair to us, but Jesus' message about forgiveness and non- judgment is that we cannot be deluded about what seems fair or makes us feel good. We have to do what is right. Is it right to forgive Casey Anthony if she asks for it? What if she doesn't ask for it? It isn't about Casey Anthony–it's about us. Will we have the courage to do such a profoundly difficult thing? Each of us, including me, will have to make our own decision, but in the end, that decision is between us and God, not us, God, and Casey Anthony. If I forgive her, or if I don't, only my relationship with God is affected. So how will he feel about me? The answer is in the puzzling Gospel–that I am obligated to forgive, but not to forget. That may make all the difference.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  13. J. Mikan

    The fact that nothing will bring the little girl back to life doesn't mean that doing justice is not necessary. Under that premise, nobody should be accountable for anything because what's done it's done. All this circus did was tech how to commit "the perfect crime": hide the body until it's so decomposed no tests can be done and tell so many contradictory lies that you end up "fabricating reasonable doubt". Congratulations to Jose Baez for the lesson to all the criminals.... I guess you made sure you'll never run out of clients.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  14. 6000years

    Forgive? It's not my job. But I do wish her ill fortunes. She killed her baby, Any guy in the states (except OJ) would have been convicted with the same or less evidence.
    Hey, party on Casey. Drink to forget your deeds until your liver melts. The sooner the better.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  15. ArcticZombie

    Maybe we should feel sorry for this freak. She obviously needs psychological help.
    She didn't report the kid missing for about a month, partied it up while her child was "missing", then misled authorities about her daughters welfare on several occasions.

    If she isn't guilty of murder she sure as hell needs mental help. There is no case for "forgiveness" that can really be made to anyone with half a brain in their head. But maybe she deserves a little sympathy for being literally crazy in the head.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  16. John


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

      You could have at least animated AlQueda bombing the butterfly or something.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  17. RoboBobo

    The thing is, Casey Anthony is a six-time felon – before she even went to trial for murder, and now she has 4 additional misdemeanor charges added to her long wrap sheet.

    But I've decided to take the hypocrites advice, I mean psychologists advice, and forgive O.J. Simpson.

    Now with that done, Casey Anthony is next on my list.

    But look, just like O.J. eventually did go to jail – because his law breaking days were not behind him yet – we will see and hear from Casey Anthony again. The Duke LaCrosse accuser – who was never so much as even charged with a crime for her actions – also ended up in jail, after she stabbed her boyfriend.

    Casey will kill, or steal, or harm someone else and she'll end up in jail. It just ashame she gets another victim, before the day arrives.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  18. Andacar

    I'll think about forgiving her when she has the guts to say what really happened. I'll forgive her when she comes clean about how and why an innocent child was murdered. I'll forgive her when she shows the slightest amount of remorse or grief for her daughter’s death, or for anything other than herself. She certainly couldn’t care less about forgiveness. She won’t forgive her parents for having the temerity to be upset when she accused them of molesting her. We can forgive her as a smug way to feel better about ourselves, I suppose. But for it to really mean anything she has to ask for it.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • 6000years

      Well said. She has never admitted to ANYTHING. Apparently, Casey's child just dissolved into thin air, along with Casey's warm fuzzy memories of motherhood. Everything has been about Casey. She is one twisted woman.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  19. VegasRage

    Stick it in ear shrink!

    July 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Trolling my readers-CNN

      What a idiot.Comparing this to Jesus or the holocoaust.GTFO

      July 17, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • bob

      amen bro!

      July 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  20. Nicole

    I will never be sure of this woman's guilt, but his condescending, obnoxious article makes me want to throw up.

    July 17, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Esther Smith

      Maybe you should...forgive the author, too.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • PaulaRoz

      You’d have to get in line. This egotist is presenting his conviction that Casey is guilty under the ruse of being a savior. Bah, humbug.

      July 17, 2011 at 12:18 am |
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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.