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Inspirational Psychology Quotes From J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and Their Meaning

Natalie Frank has a Ph.D. in Clinical psychology. She specializes in Pediatric Psychology and Behavioral Medicine.

While intended for child audiences, the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter series has a number of notable quotes that can be seen to be related psychology.. This was one reason the books appealed so strongly to adults as well. The children in the books went through both uplifting and harrowing times as they came of age and they were seen adjusting and adapting to all sorts of new realities some of them magical and others quite familiar to us all. Whether magical or otherwise, the characters in these novels always seemed to have something to say that resonated with the reader and which we could often apply to our own lives. The following quotes are ones I found to be particularly poignant or to have important implications for how our psychological makeup causes us to act in the world and to behave towards others.


This speaks to the idea of living in the moment. Sometimes we get so caught up in failures or problems that have occurred in the past or anxiety related to what might happen in the future we miss out on the present. When you live in the present, you are living where life is actually going on. There is nothing you can do about the past. It is already gone and while it may still influence you, how much it does so is up to you to decide. The future hasn’t happened yet and while we can alter our actions to bring about a different future than the one we seem to be heading towards that is also done in the current moment.

If we address what we are doing right now the future will take care of itself since, in the strictest sense, it doesn’t yet even exist except in our minds. Obsessing on what might have been in the past or what could possibly be in the future distracts us from being able to live our lives in the present moment.

This article presents 71 different exercises for practicing mindfulness to allow you to enjoy life in the present.


One theme in the Harry Potter books involved how people in power treat their subordinates or those of a lower class. In particular, a house elf who was a servant was treated much as a slave and one of the characters remarked on this and the children subsequently strove to free him. When the character remarks on the treatment of the house elf by a powerful official one of the teachers backs her up, suggesting that such treatment speaks to a character defect in the individual.

This quote is quite similar to others which have been attributed to numerous individuals including Ann Landers, Leland Stanford, Abigail Van Buren and Samuel Johnson. In fact, the sentiment resembles a large number of statements that can be traced back to the 1700’s.

One quote that is very alike to the one above was credited to Malcolm S. Forbes (among others):

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

In an article published In the 1852 Farmer’s Cabinet newspaper (Amherst, New Hampshire) an expanded passage could be found that was also quite similar to the quote from the Rowling novel:

“But apart from spiritual motives, a man’s true claim to refinement of character and good sense, is better tested by scarcely any social incident, than by the way he treats his inferiors in life. Nothing shows a greater abjectness of spirit than an overbearing temper. To insult or to abuse those who cannot resist, or dare not resent the injury, is a sure mark of cowardice, as it would be to draw a sword upon a woman.”

Acting towards others with anger, disrespect and abuse when they have no ability to fight back even verbally but instead must simply take such abuse, is not a show of strength, but quite the opposite. When we don’t have to face any repercussions for our actions and, recognizing this, lash out at those who can do nothing to thwart our attack much less fight back is cowardice. We never have to feel what it is like when that person says what they truly think about us, or face a response that suggest we are wrong or not such a good person regarding how we live our lives. We can say or do whatever we like to these people without any consequence whatsoever either to our life materially, our reputation or our conscience.

It isn’t difficult to treat those who we consider to be equal to us in position, power, ability, talent, intelligence, social standing or the like respectfully. We equate them in some way with ourselves, and we act toward similar others in the way we would want them to act toward us. We value their opinions and their attitudes and do what we can to influence the way they view us positive ways.

Sometimes we may treat others positively, though with some degree of falsehood, in order to get something from them, to take advantage of their position or to improve ours. Yet it is the way we treat those who cannot benefit us in any materialistic way nor through reputation or position, that truly speaks to who we are as a person.

Treating others respectfully no matter who they are says we recognize that each of us has an important role to play in the world whether that role is seemingly big or small. We can never know anyone’s absolute purpose and should strive to each every person the way we would want to be treated. The J.K. Rowling books remind us that it is how we treat those who we believe can do absolutely nothing for us that speaks to our true character.


This quote is related to the last in that we want our friends to think highly of us and to respect and like us. We choose our friends for reasons and often these reasons involve the way we view them, as similar to us in many ways or maybe complementary. Sometimes we choose friends who have attributes which we admire.and want to have ourselves.

Whatever the reason we make friends with people, we don’t want to act in ways that will cause them to think badly of us or to end the friendship. Yet when they are doing something that hurts us in some way or goes against our values such as hurting others needlessly, we need to have the strength to stand up to them and tell them so. If our friends can’t take constructive criticism from us that is honestly meant than perhaps we need to rethink those friendships. Of course, there’s the other side of the coin as well. We need to be able to accept the same kind of constructive criticism from our friends.


Often we fail to assign importance to the thoughts we have and their influence on our feelings and behavior. Cognitive behavioral psychology is founded on these relationships and the crucial role our thoughts have in determining what comes afterwards. Given the same situation, if we change our thoughts about what is occurring, it’s outcome or consequences we can change the way we feel about the situation and how we behave in response.

How often does it happen that we interpret something somebody says to us incorrectly? Perhaps we immediately get angry or distressed and react towards them in a negative manner. But then as soon as we find out that our interpretation was wrong and they meant something else entirely, we calm down, perhaps apologize and interact with them in a completely different manner. Dismissing the importance of our thoughts can lead to problematic and often devastating outcomes. Harnessing our thoughts and directing them in positive, adaptive directions can lessen negativity and stress we perceive to be in our surrounding and improve our relationships and our lives.


I love this quote because it reminds us of the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who have a positive influence on our life. We all hear about this one or that one who came to a bad end because they ran around with the “wrong crowd.” Yet as influential as the wrong crowd can be so can the right crowd if we just remember to search them out.

There are people out there who can help us see things differently and ultimately feel that we have capabilities that we either forgot about or never felt we had in the first place. Whereas some people may simply be the type that can have have a positive influence on large numbers of others, I think we all have it inside of us to be this kind of person for specific others. Finding people to help us continue down a positive life path and being that kind of person for others we meet along the way can make us believe anything is possible.


As important as our thoughts are, our words are equally so. Words have power which is something we often either forget or simply ignore as we would have to take responsibility for them if we recognized this. Words have the power to hurt and the power to heal, the power to encourage and the power to ruin.

When we start with something that is intended to somehow excuse what we are about to say that also is an admission that we understand the effect our words will likely have. “I don’t mean to be offensive but . . .” “I don’t mean to upset you but . . .” or “I just have to say here . . .” are all expressions that indicate the exact opposite. These phrases indicate that we clearly know that what we are about to say is likely to be offensive or to upset the other person. What makes us think we just have to say something no matter how our words could affect someone else?

At the same time we can use words to help someone or to make them feel more positively about themselves or what they are doing. Becoming more aware of the messages we communicate to others while realizing that once uttered, our words cannot be taken back can help us become more responsible about what we choose say. The right words can serve as a source of inspiration, enthusiasm and encouragement.

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© 2018 Natalie Frank

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