I’ve always loved Harry Potter. As a kid, I loved the magic of it, and longed to be a part of that world. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate different parts of the story my younger self couldn’t. Harry Potter is a story about witches and wizards and the cool spells they cast and evil villains they defeat, sure, but it’s much deeper than that. Harry Potter and the magical world he lives in can provide us with valuable lessons about others, ourselves, and our lives.
To start, I’ll outline a few of the most important lessons Harry Potter taught me about others.
No one is simple.
First impressions are important, and their effects are enduring. Your gut instinct can be a useful tool in discerning “good and bad,” or “right and wrong.” We know these are true, but it’s also true that the impressions and ideas we have of people can be false, or at least oversimplified. Draco Malfoy, when taken at face value, was a cruel bully working for the dark side. This impression, while admittedly not inaccurate, doesn’t reflect the fact that Draco was raised in a family that not only encouraged, but basically forced a cruel and aggressive treatment of others. In order to be “good,” Draco would have had to oppose his family and everything he’d been taught, not to mention He Who Must Not Be Named. Maybe Draco would have been the hero of the story if raised in a different environment, but that’s not the life he was given. While circumstance isn’t enough to justify cruelty, Draco’s story is a perfect example of why we can’t rely on a person’s outward appearance or interaction with others to determine their true character.
People may surprise you.
In the same way that we can’t always rely on our impressions or on a person’s behavior to determine their “goodness,” we can’t always rely on our past experience with them to predict what we will see of them in the future. Kreacher, the house elf that was bound to serve the Black family, didn’t attempt to hide his hatred for Mudbloods (and Hermione, by extension), Harry, and anyone who associated with either, and did whatever was in his power to resist helping them. He was a character who was easy to hate and appeared to be one with no redeeming qualities. However, Kreacher eventually changed his tune, and showed up to fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters at the Battle of Hogwarts. Based on Kreacher’s past, no one would expect him to fight against the side he had been loyal to throughout his life. Kreacher’s character development shows that if we allow for the opportunity for people to surprise us, they just might end up fighting evil with us (or, you know, a difficult class…same thing).
You need others.
Harry was always a brave and courageous person, willing to fight the battles of the wizarding world all on his own. Bravery, courage, and independence are certainly positive traits to possess, but there comes a time when the desire to do it on your own needs to be suspended and you need to turn to your support system to help you out. Harry couldn’t have accomplished what he did without the support of others, particularly his partners in crime, Ron and Hermione. They never left his side, stuck up for him when others challenged or questioned him, and helped him fight any dementors or death eaters or obnoxious classmates who crossed his path. It is essential to build and maintain a quality support system – a group of people who complement who you are, are stronger where you are weaker, and who are able and willing to do whatever they can to help you succeed.
With the world of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling created a set of rich, complex characters whose stories can provide a guideline of how best to interact with and understand those around us, whether they be friends, enemies, or strangers. In future posts, I will look at more bits of wisdom Harry Potter taught me.