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Harry Potter is full of all sorts of life lessons that have stuck with people ever since the first book came out in 1997. All the way through the final movie release in 2011, Harry Potter holds a special place for many people. I still consider myself a Potterhead and identify closely with Hermione and Ravenclaw House. I’d like to share the top 7 lessons I’ve learned from now 20 years of exposure to the Harry Potter series. (Thanks to my Godmother for introducing me to it in 1999!)
Lesson 1: Love is More Powerful Than Evil
We all know the story. Harry Potter survived Voldemort’s Killing Curse because of his mother’s love. That love acted as protection for Harry until he turned 17… Effectively trouncing evil at every turn. It’s a common theme.
Make love, not war.
Love each other instead of hating each other.
The Harry Potter books teach this lesson in such a powerful way. When a mother gives her life for her son, in the ultimate sacrifice, Love Wins, even in death.
Lesson 2: Choose Your Friends Wisely
If you remember in the first book, Draco Malfoy offered to be Harry’s friend… Right after insulting Ron. In Ron’s presence. In front of Harry.
Ron, who quickly became Harry’s best friend.
Harry showed good judgment and chose his friend wisely, based on character rather than a snotty kid’s judgment on which wizarding families were good or not.
So how do we apply this lesson to our own lives? We stay away from toxic friendships. We stay aware of the people we hang around the most, and if they’re dragging us down, to find new friends. Choosing our friends wisely is a skill many younger people seem to lack with the world wide web at our fingertips.
There’s another example of not choosing your friends wisely that springs to mind from the Harry Potter books. Harry’s father, James Potter, befriended Peter Pettigrew—the man who later betrayed all his friends for an empty promise of power and safety. #spoileralert
Lesson 3: Good Teachers Make All the Difference
Who was the worst teacher at Hogwarts?
If you answered “Severus Snape,” you’d be right. I can never remember if it’s canon or just fanon (considering I spent five years writing one long HP fanfic), but it’s likely that Snape’s teaching methods reduced the number of Aurors in the Ministry. Potions is a requirement, and Snape whittled down all the promising candidates from his classes, either with his personality or with his harsh grades.
On the other hand, good teachers can help us bloom. Take Remus Lupin, for example. He helped Neville face his fear (ironically, Snape) with the Boggart, and taught Harry’s class probably the most of any teacher other than the false Moody.
Harry himself was a good teacher in Order of the Phoenix, with Dumbledore’s Army.
In real life, teachers can make or break our love for different subjects. In high school, I ended up hating biology because the teacher was horrible, didn’t know what she was doing, and graded unfairly. Because of that, I had no interest in pursuing the life sciences, which could have led to a career in medicine or a field closer to diabetes research. But I’ll never know.
When we have good teachers, we have better futures.
Lesson 4: Some Desires Will Never Manifest
The Mirror of Erised played a major role in the Sorcerer’s Stone. The inscription on the mirror says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” Harry’s deepest desire was to have his family. He saw himself, with his parents and relatives surrounding him, but it was an impossible dream to fulfill. Nothing could bring his parents and family back.
We all have desires like that. Desires that we can never fulfill or manifest because they are literally impossible. We can’t bring people back from the dead, and we can’t change the past, as much as some of us would like to.
And when we experience desires like that, feeling cheated is normal. But the way through it is acceptance. If we don’t accept that not all our desires will come true, then we’re more likely to focus on pursuing and achieving the things that are within our reach, even if it means stretching ourselves our whole lives.
Lesson 5: Courage Means Facing Your Fears Anyway
Harry never ran away from a frightening situation when his friends were in danger. He walked right into the Forbidden Forest to give himself up to Voldemort, because he knew it would save his friends. Self-sacrifice is the ultimate demonstration of courage and love (just like Harry’s mother). There were many moments during the seven years of Harry Potter when scary situations required courage to overcome. And of all the lessons Harry Potter teaches, this one is my favorite.
As Ruth Soukup says, courage doesn’t mean you’re never afraid. It just means you put one foot in front of the other, taking action despite the fear. It’s okay to be afraid. Just do it anyway.
This lesson from Harry Potter teaches us a lot about life and the real world. Many people suffer from anxiety—anxiety that stops us in our tracks because of fear. It’s important to stand up for what we believe in despite how scary it seems.
Lesson 6: Help Will Always be Given to Those Who Ask For It
Harry’s instinct was to do everything himself. He rarely asked for help until it was almost too late. Many times, his friends had to force their help upon him to overcome his stubborn nature.
Asking for help can feel demoralizing. When we’re used to doing it ourselves and thinking that nobody else can do it as well as we can, we just fall into the trap of overwork and overwhelm.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Working together (AKA asking for help) ensures that you’re not stuck struggling with the things you’re bad at when someone else loves doing those things.
In real life, this is a fundamental foundation of the Virtual Assistant and freelancing business models. If you need help with something, there’s an army of people ready to answer your call for help.
But only if you ask.
Lesson 7: Everyone Dies, But Not Everyone Truly Lives
Dumbledore said it best: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
It’s easy to get stuck living in either the past or the future. When we’re stuck on the past, we think about what we would’ve done differently or get hung up on things we wish we hadn’t said. It keeps us in a victim mentality and mode where we never really progress. When we live too much in the future, we spend inordinate time planning and preparing and perfecting for a future that’s neither here nor guaranteed.
Death is one of life’s two certainties (the other being taxes). Severus Snape lived a bit too much in the past—it’s clear from how he treated Harry and Neville, in particular. He held on to ancient experiences and hatred for someone long-dead. On the other hand, I’d argue that Dumbledore spent too much time living in the future. He held on to important information and was playing the long chess game without informing the pieces of their ultimate purpose.
If you regret things in your past, work on letting them go so they don’t affect your present or your future. If you’re worried about the future, take a breath and assess where you are right now. The future isn’t guaranteed, and the present is the only thing we really experience.
What Lesson from Harry Potter Sticks With You?
Which of these lessons from Harry Potter made the most impact on you? Did you learn something else from the books or movies that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment!