When I was nine years old, I made the most magical discovery of my life. One day, at the elementary school book fair, I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it immediately became my bible. Throughout the next twelve years, the series remained a staple in my world, as I attended midnight releases, enjoyed Harry Potter Weekends, visited the theme park and even organized a “Hunt for the Horcruxes” fundraising event in college.
Last night, it all ended with the second installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hitting theaters. Of course I attended the midnight showing (what self-respecting nerd wouldn’t?), and as I watched some of the flashback clips, I couldn’t help but think about how much of a profound effect the series has had on me and so many others. When I think about some of the most important things I’ve learned in life, I can’t help but think that half of them have stemmed from an Albus Dumbledore quote or an aspect of one of the seven books.
Not only has J.K. Rowling inspired me as a writer, but she has also created a powerful series of young adult novels that can teach us a lot about how to be the best we can be and strive for positive change, even in the Muggle world. This week, in honor of the final film’s release, I would like to share some of these lessons with you! (Warning: Possible spoilers up ahead!)
The Friday Five: Lessons Learned From The Harry Potter Series
1. Your choices shape the kind of person you become. — Tweet this!
It doesn’t matter how inherently good you believe you are; if your choices in life don’t reflect kindness and loyalty, then you will not be perceived as kind or loyal. It doesn’t matter how talented you are; if you don’t practice or demonstrate your skills, then you will not be perceived as talented. We are all born with some good and bad in us, but ultimately we will be judged by the actions we take and the paths we follow. This also means that we are capable of change. On Harry’s first night at Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat suggests that he would do well in Slytherin (much like Tom Riddle, the eventual Lord Voldemort), but instead, Harry chooses to divert from Voldemort’s path and become a Gryffindor instead. This simple choice alone ultimately has a major impact on the next seven years of his life.
2. There is more to a person than meets the eye.
Everyone — whether it’s the first-string quarterback, the janitor or that weird guy who sits in the corner by himself — has a story. On a day to day basis, we usually only get a piece of that story, but we can learn a lot about a person by digging a little deeper. Throughout the first six books of the series, Potions professor Severus Snape is painted as the most miserable and biased teacher that Harry has ever seen, and he becomes one of those characters you just love to hate. I don’t want to give away the ending for those who aren’t caught up on the series, but Snape does turn out to be one of the bravest, most noble characters, with a heartbreakingly beautiful storyline. Upon first glance, a person might not seem like much, but you might find something wonderful if you look just past the surface.
3. Your true friends will stick by you through the difficult times.
Harry Potter lives a tough life as the Chosen One; not only must he balance academics, Quidditch and attempts at finding a girlfriend, but he is constantly bombarded with a new Voldemort-centered problem that he must solve. His two major constants: Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, his best friends. Whether he must destroy a Horcrux, escape a band of Death Eaters or save a hippogriff’s life, his friends are always there to help in any way that they can. In the past year especially, I have found that my truest friends have been those who stuck around not only when things were going well, but when times were rough. In other words, a true friend does not scare easily and will do his or her best to help you tackle any problem you have.
4. There will always be injustices to fight.
Discrimination takes place no matter where in the world you go, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. In the Harry Potter books, this discrimination is seen among magical creatures, as well as by blood status (Pureblood versus Half-Blood versus Muggle-Born). Throughout the series, Harry and his friends never stop fighting for what they believe in. In your own life, when you witness some sort of prejudice that you don’t agree with (whether it is by race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or Team Edward/Team Jacob), it is important to stand up for your beliefs and for equality.
5. Love is more powerful than hatred.
Just as good conquers evil, so too does love usually conquer hate. In the first book, Voldemort (who has never known love and was even born out of a loveless union) is more or less destroyed by a mother’s fierce love for her son. Growing up, Harry often compares himself to Voldemort, but unlike the Dark Lord, Harry sustains strong relationships and is bound to his late parents by the love that courses through his veins. Although Voldemort has many followers, he is merely respected and feared, never loved. Ultimately, the good guys win. In real life, there is something to be said for killing your enemies with kindness. Hating someone else is completely pointless; if anything, it does you more harm than good. The concept can best be summed up by a line from a Nada Surf song: “Always love. Hate will get you every time.”
My fondest farewells to some of the most influential books I have ever read. (More on those later!) What have you learned from the series?