The dark arts professor in Harry Potter is often perceived through a black and white lens. Severus Snape is judged evil. Labeling him as such is a simplistic reaction toward a tragic, complicated character who soured on love and appeared to live a bitter, lonely, isolated life.
J. K. Rowling explained Harry Potter named his son after Snape, in part, for saving his life from Voldemort. Snape is a hero. It caused an uproar in some Potter circles.
The complexity of human dynamics invites Potter fans and everyone else to explore their reactions to events, people, and the treatment received from others. Put in this context Snape can be a spiritual teacher pushing a person out of personal comfort zones.
Some Potter fans are miffed by any amount of goodness attributed to Snape. Perhaps he’s the character many want to hate. It is a guilty pleasure and deliciously fun. But it gets messy and complicated, if you have to acknowledge virtue and goodness in someone very disagreeable.
Let’s not forget the dark arts professor once had the ability to love. He never stopped thinking about Harry’s mother who jilted him, which explains in part, though does not excuse, Snape’s animosity toward the junior wizard. Snape unfairly directed his dislike for Harry’s father toward his student.
The negative reaction by Potter fans to Snape’s better angels may say more about them for resisting the challenge to see the world differently and adjusting entrenched views. It may suggest how some project their own personal issues onto Snape stemming from wrongs and injustices they’ve experienced and wondering consciously or subconsciously why bad people get away with bad things.
A perceived bad person with an amber of goodness is difficult to understand. Human beings strive for black and white, not shades of gray. Someone viewed as genuinely bad with good qualities can cause others inner conflict. People want justification in disliking as well as not loving another.
Finding closure or learning to manage negative feelings speaks to whether we react or respond to life’s challenges witnessed or experienced. A response often comes after some degree of reflection and discernment. A reaction tends to occur without thought or understanding.
This doesn’t mean reacting is always without merit. Don’t respond to a fire. You want to react to it. Don’t think about why it started, just call the fire department. Sometimes a little bit of fear is a good thing, so long as it doesn’t overwhelm and turns into panic.
Understandably, you may react as a fierce daddy or mamma bear if your child is insulted or threatened. You can go through the formality of an apology later while being demonstrative no one messes with your kids.
An ongoing stressful situation that becomes the new normal may cause an individual to end each day with a full carrot or cheese cake for dinner. But the pastry swine-out need not be the new normal along with ever bigger clothes. It’s a reaction, not reasoned response to stress and anxiety.
Everyone, whether reacting, behaving, or responding does it for a reason.
Sometimes it occurs because of unhealthy fear, anger, insecurity, conditioning, or entrenched thinking, which limits the ability to better understand one’s self and others. If you have a strong reaction to something, self-analyze. Ask why and explore it. It’s in these moments the spiritual door is glacially and incrementally inched open toward greater understanding of self, others, and one’s place in the world.
Paul Jesep is an attorney, ethics consultant, corporate chaplain, and author of Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.