I have learned a lot since then, and what I have learned (and I would argue that this is the most important lesson for any person to learn) is that pain is a personal experience. No one person's pain can be compared to that of another person. Pain, grief, stress, and all of our other emotions are a personal experience. Even two people experiencing the same loss feel the pain in different ways.
What brought this all to front was the time of the semester it is in seminary. It is the time of the semester when we are all stressed about homework, anxious about not only the upcoming break, but also our plans for the summer and next school year, but it also seems that most people have a life situation or two (or three...) piled on top of that. What commonly happens, is that one person starts sharing about how they are stressed are, genuinely hoping for some support from the people that are in similar situations, and the person listening tries to one-up them. It happens a bit like this...
"Man, I'm just so tired.... I haven't been sleeping well, and I have two papers and a presentation to do before the end of the week..."
"Oh, that's terrible... but I've got three papers and a DCoM meeting this week, and I'm preaching on Sunday."
While both people are looking for support (and often, affirmation) the conversation turns from support to a contest over who busier, more over-committed, stressed.
If we can't even provide care for our friends who are stressed over schoolwork because we are trying to one-up them, how are we ever going to care for someone in situations where their entire life is literally falling apart. Are we going to say, "Sorry, you're parents are getting divorced and your sense of family is shattered, but my mom just died... I came back to school, and so should you." While that sentence seems unruly, I actually considered uttering in my lifetime.
This is all a lesson in pastoral care, but more importantly, it is a lesson in Christian love. Christian love is not one-upping someone, but putting your own stress, grief, turmoil aside so that you can love someone in the midst of their own context.
This is a lesson I am still working on learning, but I hope that I can start being an example of this so that others can experience that love, and eventually provide that kind of love for someone else.