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Often times something is referred to as being a "crutch" for something, meaning they rely on it. What would be a suitable opposite to this metaphor?

EDIT: To rephrase: What's a good metaphor/term for something that "sets you free" or liberates you or helps towards a cause? I hope that makes more sense.

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What is the opposite of "rely on"? "Be independent from" or "be relied upon" or something else? –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 19 '11 at 21:07
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I don't get what you're asking here? A metaphorical crutch is something people rely on that they shouldn't need to. Do you want something people don't rely on that they should? Something people rely on that they should? Something people don't rely on that they shouldn't? (A paper umbrella ... nobody relies on a paper umbrella.) –  Peter Shor Sep 19 '11 at 21:08
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I edited for clarification. Sorry. –  Johannes Sep 19 '11 at 21:12
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5 Answers

Three metaphors that spring to mind:

A stepping stone: something that aids you in getting towards your goal, something that helps you move forward

Example: I'm not your stepping stone/ You're trying to make your mark in society / You're using all the tricks that you used on me / You're reading all them high-fashion magazines (The Monkees)

The key that unlocked [doors] (can specify which door, or even substitute another word): the essential tool that enables an achievement

Example: The discovery of DNA was the key that unlocked the human genome.

The wind in (someone's) sails: A force that drives someone forward, giving them the energy and enthusiasm to accomplish a goal. Something can either put the wind in a person's sails (helpful) or take the wind out of someone's sails (thereby taking away their enthusiasm).

Example: The good grades Samantha earned that semester put the wind in her sails, and she's been studying diligently and getting high marks ever since.

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I guess something that sets you free instead,- something that gives you wings (9).Maybe something that catapults you. Any specific usage-context?

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...So the answer is "Red Bull" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull#Advertising - see second paragraph, "Advertising" section)? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 19 '11 at 21:24
    
:-) Not very familiar where I live, but they say ginseng is good. –  Autoresponder Sep 19 '11 at 21:27
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Maybe you want the word "enabler"? It refers to a person/thing that enables something else to achieve a goal.

The full gas tank in the lawnmower was the enabler to Joe's neatly trimmed lawn.

In this case, the full gas tank enabled Joe to do a good job mowing his lawn, which from this context, we can assume would have been impossible without a sufficiently fueled mower.

It also sometimes has a negative connotation, in contexts where one person's behaviour enables another to take an action that is ultimately destructive or damaging) (usually to themselves, not to the enabler).

Frank's drug problem got worse every week, and by pretending that there was no problem, his roommate Bob was an enabler to the situation.

In this case, Bob enabled Frank to engage in a destructive drug habit by simply ignoring the problem and not intervening when he had the opportunity to do so.

You'll want to make sure the context you are using this word in is clear.

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I think the metaphor antonym would be "broken reed":

a broken reed,is a person or thing too frail or weak to be relied on for support:

In view of the edits, it seems a word you might be looking for could be "emancipator":. To emancipate means:

To set free from the power of another; to liberate; as:

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Could you explain in more detail exactly what "broken reed" means? It's my first time hearing it. –  Johannes Sep 19 '11 at 21:08
    
Would a broken reed be liberating, or set someone free? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 19 '11 at 21:39
    
The original question was the opposite of "crutch". I'm answering that –  Thursagen Sep 19 '11 at 21:41
    
Thank you for the clarification. I learned something new. Though that's not what I was looking for. Thank you anyway! –  Johannes Sep 19 '11 at 21:42
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