"Where Dwell The Brave At Heart": What Gryffindor Taught This Slytherin About Bravery

I’ve always had this idea of bravery in my head that was distinctly Gryffindor-ian in nature.

I noticed that I would be quick to roll my eyes whenever Harry would go off and do things that seemed incredibly dumb, against what everyone else had asked him to do and against what I viewed as “common sense”. I’d be quick to diminish the guts it took on account of how reckless those acts appeared (it didn’t help that his teenage-y frontal lobe was not yet fully developed, making impulse control a likely struggle, or his extensive history of trauma, making fighting a likely reaction to stressful situations). We see examples of folks doing crazy shit like jeopardizing their lives for a selfie, that I’ve lost focus on not just the holistic aspect of bravery, but also its importance.

As a devout Slytherin, I’ve always kind of brushed Gryffindor values aside, as less significant than the values of ambition, or even wisdom, or fairness. But these distinctions are arbitrary, and these values intertwined. It is often through bravery that these values and others are upheld, honored, and defended.

I am beginning to realize that what I view as “recklessness” is a quintessential component of bravery. “Recklessness” is not the absence of conscious decision-making, or the absence of fear. It’s actually embracing vulnerability. It’s moving forth without knowing the outcome, but trusting in the process, trusting in oneself, in others, in ideas. If folks weren’t willing to put themselves in potential risk in order to achieve whatever noble goal they’ve got, then how would it be brave? You can’t pro/con-list your way out of things, nor calculate and assess when the right time for bravery is. The illusion of control over one’s well-being in the way of cynicism, disengagement, judgement and manufactured rationalized conviction, only serves to further alienate us, not just from recognizing moments of bravery in others, but also in ourselves.

Adding to the hardship of recognizing bravery, I feel like we are saturated by characters whose bravery is their most valued and celebrated trait; and I can see why they are needed. We need the bravery of superheroes, of rebels, of vampire slayers. And the form of bravery most often valued and celebrated is bravery in some type of form that often feels a bit performative to me; like Daenerys Targaryen dracarys-ing ships, slave owners, and traitors. Our schema of bravery most often includes Harry, or even Neville, before it includes Luna Lovegood, whose very existence is bound with the everyday bravery of being herself in a world of people (not nargles, people) who steal her stuff to the point where she needs to make a list of missing possessions.

There are so many forms of bravery that tend to fall through the cracks. It’s Sansa’s active bravery that keeps her alive and fighting to survive. When people say/imply that Sansa’s was a passive resistance, often not perceived as resistance at all, with zero awareness of how trauma or sexual violence works... let’s just say it’s a hill I’m always happy to die on. Or Nathaniel’s bravery on Crazy Ex Girlfriend, when he re-discovers, amidst thoughts/feelings flooding his brain following Rebecca’s attempt to complete suicide, a long-lost memory. He remembered a parallel experience he had when he was 10, involving his mom, the Marie Curie of repressed feelings. In a family culture embedded in secrecy and polish, that leaves no room for the messiness of vulnerability, Nathaniel decided to confront his parents and ask the hard questions. He took a leap of/into faith.

And at the crux of it, I feel like that’s where bravery lies. In feeling. In allowing yourself to feel deeply and dive in. In trusting and letting go of certainty. In embracing fear. In the space “where dwell the brave at heart”.

In thinking back to the most impacting moments of my life, the bright-colored memories of purpose and zeal, the soft pastels of serenity and connection— they are all forged by acts of bravery, big or small. And while I think that all acts of bravery, in their inception, are scary and unpredictable and grand, I feel like we so often post-factum minimize or erase the weight of these acts to protect ourselves from discomfort, judgement, and shame.

I have long held Gryffindor’s “je m’en fous”-ness about rules, arrogance, and Hogwarts staff’s blatant favoritism against them. My biases have blinded me to anything else they might have to offer, and helped me craft this idea of bravery as recklessness, keeping vulnerability at bay.

I hate to admit it, but Gryffindors and their dumb bravery may have something to teach this Slytherin after all.

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