Are you Harry or Voldemort?
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. - Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter is a story of coming out—in the broadest sense of that word—letting our “weird self” shine even in the face of rejection, and perhaps because of it.
It is a story of non-conformity and of choices—it shows us true magic of life when we choose to stand in our light and have the courage to be and do what is true.
Unlike Harry, who was this “weird” kid, shamed and abused, with a mark on his forehead and a life inside a closet, Tom Riddle (i.e. Voldemort) was talented, crafty, and well-aware of his abilities.
They had one thing in common, however—they were both orphaned.
There’s a lesson in this: we are all orphaned in a sense that, no matter our background, only we get to decide which road to take and who we are going to be. This is the ultimate free-will.
This is also where their stories diverge.
One is brave, the other cowardly. One is vulnerable, daring, and genuine; the other sleazy, hypocritical, and filled with fear. One chooses love, faith, and full-abandon, the other control, manipulation, and lies. One has an adopted family and friends who love him for his real self, the other followers who fear him.
One chooses survival, at all cost—including entirely losing himself (just think of his disfigured body); the other chooses to face his fears, which help him grow into his authentic self.
One has character and a backbone, willing to feel both the pain and the love. The other doesn’t. Instead, he’s running away from himself.
Harry never expected his life to turn out that way—that he would have to embrace the weird, rejected part of himself and fight the world in order to find true belonging, purpose, and love. But it is his choice to do so what made him extraordinary.
He could have stayed closeted, below the stairs, or wavered in the face of death, settling for a cease-fire with the power-to-be (Voldemort) — choosing conformity, like many of those in the Ministry of Magic did.
But he didn’t, and he and others were much better off for it.
None of us chooses how we are born; only who we become. None of us expected our lives would turn out this way, but just like Harry, we get to choose to take life by its proverbial horns and live it fully OR we can hide in the shadows of fear, pretending instead of living; staying safe instead of standing up and providing a powerful example for others (i.e. leading). Like Harry, I prefer to be an example.
Millions of people connect with Harry’s story, because it is in our nature to not conform. We are wired to express authentically and do what is right. We are just often too scared to do so.
Abe Lincoln could have prevaricated on the issue of slavery, but he didn’t even though it cost him his life. Henry Ford could have looked to get a faster horse, not invent an automobile. Freddie Mercury could have followed his father’s expectations in order to get the approval, instead he chose to live out his truest truth.
Even in the most unlikely of places, Serbia—a country and culture known for nationalism and homophobia—embraced a lesbian prime minister and her partner. They just had a child born this week.
Anything is possible when we choose to take the potion of courage.
There’s a reason we are inspired by Harry, not Voldemort.
While we can overcome our limits, expand our capacity, and improve our abilities—the choices we make define our character.
And our character matters more than anything else in life.
Are you a Harry or a Voldemort?
I think we all have a bit of each in ourselves. But we also get to choose which one to embrace.
We become by choosing.
I know it is hard to be true, raw you and to risk pain, ridicule, shame, rejection, and abandonment—I’ve known them all first hand, and they suck—but what would you rather, stay imprisoned under the stairs in darkness out of fear and perpetual simmering pain, or seize the magic that is you and is within you?
Whether in your work, personal or professional relationships, or when you’re all alone, contemplating your next steps, the lesson still applies. There are a million other examples that affirm it, too.
But the choice, that is all you.
Which one will you be?
Be like Harry.