It is important to realize that the moral virtues should not be practiced in isolation from the other moral virtues. Forgiveness and justice should occur side-by-side for you. As you forgive, try to deliberately cultivate a sense of justice or the seeking of what is fair. In this way, your forgiving and becoming less angry should not diminish your quest for justice. In fact, without deep anger, what you seek in justice may be qualitatively different (and actually more fair) than what you seek when fuming with anger.
It is difficult to say whether you have forgiven or simply moved on from the incident and the person. As the late Lewis Smedes used to ask, “Do you now wish this person well?” If you do, then you likely are in the process of forgiving or perhaps have forgiven. On the other hand, if you simply have no negative emotions, but are indifferent toward the person, with no concern or compassion at all toward this person, then this may be an indication of putting the past behind you without necessarily forgiving. Do you wish the person well?
Your question focuses on the classic distinction between forgiving and reconciling. When you forgive, you are practicing a moral virtue in which you try to reduce resentment and show goodness of some kind to your partner. You try to do these unconditionally while, at the same time, striving for fairness (exercising the moral virtue of justice alongside forgiveness). In contrast, when you reconcile, you are not exercising a moral virtue, but instead are engaging in a negotiation strategy of working your way back to mutual trust. When you say you are “being careful,” you are showing that your trust is not yet strong. Do not expect the trust to be re-established immediately. Try to see instances of when your partner now is being trustworthy. Let these instances grow in you until you see that your partner has changed and can be trusted. Of course, given that we are all imperfect, no one will behave in such a way as to earn perfect trust in all areas of life. Use your wisdom here: Is he sorry for the past hurt? Is he trying to change? Is he making progress? Your forgiving may help you to be patient as he changes.
You first can become ready to approach the one whom you hurt. The point of approaching the other is to seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness includes: 1) remorse or an inner sorrow for having hurt the other; 2) repentance or saying you are sorry (apologizing); and 3) making recompense within reason. If you are a person of faith, then seeking forgiveness from God is important. Finally, practicing self-forgiveness should reduce the guilt. Self forgiveness is not letting yourself off the hook, but instead is unconditionally loving yourself despite what you did. When you seek forgiveness from the other, when you seek forgiveness from God, then you are not engaging in letting yourself off the hook when you self-forgive.
Actually, no, this is not implied. It is best to work on your anger before approaching people who offend so that your communication is as reasonable, fair, and civil as possible. You can work on your anger and not interact with those who offend if their actions could be harmful to you. If you seek reconciliation, then, yes, you can first work on your anger and then approach the person.
Yes. You can read one such relationship between anger and cancer at my Psychology Today blog site here:
Yes, I do think that forgiving can break the pattern of identifying with the aggressor. Why? It is because as people forgive, then they see more clearly that what the other did was unfair, is unfair, and always will be unfair. Seeing this, those who forgive will not want to imitate those behaviors that now clearly are seen as unjust.