Although the books about Harry Potter are technically a series for children, they explorer many different grown-up themes. From dealing with loss, to standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, the Harry Potter series is a thoughtful and poignant one. Whether you fancy yourself a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, a human or a house elf, these 15 lessons from Harry Potter will have you pondering your approach to life.
We are only human.
“Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.” –Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Much of the conflict in the Harry Potter series centers around greed and ego. The only way to overcome these problems is to see ourselves as fallible, and accept that sometimes we are wrong. The Harry Potter series consistently reminds us to look at our own faults before tearing down others.
You can move on from loss.
“The things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end—if not always in the way we expect.” – Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Another theme in the Harry Potter series is unexpected loss. Growing from tragedy and moving on is something we all have to learn to do. Ultimately, we recover from loss by growing in unexpected ways, which happens a number of times across the series.
Love is irreplaceable.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Love is the closest thing to magic that we have, so in the Harry Potter universe, it’s only fitting that love has special powers too. A recurring theme we could all emulate more, Harry Potter teaches us that love is the best solution.
You can overcome fear.
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Harry Potter series attacks head-on our desire as humans to insulate ourselves from the world. While pretending something doesn’t exist is comforting, ignorance of what challenges us only causes more problems. The Harry Potter series periodically reminds readers that fear of a problem is much worse than the actual problem.
Death is inevitable.
“To the well-organized mind, death is merely the next great adventure.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Another theme explored in the Harry Potter series is death. While Harry Potter starts the series ridden with tragedy, he grows to understand that fearing death only takes away our ability to enjoy life.
Courage is complex.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Where most adventure tales involve standing up to powerful villains, the Harry Potter series doesn’t shy away from the challenges of standing up to your friends. At the end of the first book, when nerdy Neville challenges the cool kids to try and save their lives, he requires just as much courage as those of us standing up to evil. It is important to remember that all kinds of courage are required to be a good person in life.
We can make our choices.
“It is our choices that tell us who we really are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter is a character whose life is marred by attention and speculation. However, Harry learns that regardless of the abilities he’s born with, the decisions he makes are far more critical for the future. This is a recurring theme that shows all of us we can become what we choose.
Respect makes a difference.
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Harry potter series is full of inequality between those of different species and backgrounds. Despite the attention that surrounds Harry, however, he refuses to treat anyone like less than a friend. The lesson that everyone deserves respect is a powerful and poignant one.
“I have no reason to believe that your views are anything other than bilge, Dumbledore. The dementors remain in place in Azkaban and are doing everything we ask them to.” – Cornelius Fudge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Throughout the series, powerful institutions are sabotaged to benefit those doing evil. Because the leader of the Ministry of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, won’t admit he’s lost control, many characters end up suffering. A powerful lesson for everyone, learning to question authority is a crucial lesson for muggle and wizard alike.
Understanding others is valuable.
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
With such a complex society, the Harry Potter series parallels many struggles we face in the real world. When Harry is forced to increase his understanding to reach his goals, it’s a reminder that knowledge is power, and empathy is critical.
Apathy is toxic.
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Never shying away from caring for others, master wizard Albus Dumbledore is quick to prompt Harry, and each of us, that indifference is the real enemy of good. Spurring Harry to act on behalf of others reminds all of us to care more about the people in our lives.
Loss does not define us.
“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Another way the Harry Potter series tackles loss is by emphasizing Harry’s memories of those around him who have passed. By learning to treasure our memories of deceased loved ones, we can feel less like we’ve lost someone dear, and more appreciative of the time we had with them.
Hope can never be extinguished.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Alkaban
Throughout the course of the series, Harry Potter faces some truly troubling challenges. Despite the evil and darkness he fights, Harry is never willing to give up or grow jaded. This is a powerful reminder that each of us has the power to make the world a little brighter, regardless of our circumstances.
Life wasted is worse than death
“Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
In chastising Voldemort, Dumbledore reminds all of us that worse than death is a life wasted. Though Voldemort seeks immortality throughout the books, what ultimately defeats him is the rest of the characters’ refusal to waste their lives in fear and suffering.
Age is just a number.
“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Another incredible lesson from the Harry Potter series is that age is no barrier to what you can accomplish. Despite their youth, Harry, Ron, and Hermione conquer some of the most dangerous forces in their world. On the other hand, however, aging wizards like Dumbledore still remain powerful and capable. Emphasizing once again that choices define who you are, the Harry Potter series shows people of all ages limited only by their motivation and imagination.
Featured photo credit: Harry Potter/Halle Stoutzenberger via flickr.com