I'm looking for a well-known phrase/idiom/quote/expression to express the meaning that something is good for you but only when you can handle it.

For example, some medicine can cure a disease but only when the person being treated is otherwise healthy enough. If the patient is weak, the medicine may do more harm than good.

I'm struggling to find a well-known and concise way of expressing this. Any suggestions are welcome.

UPDATE: Can I offer another example?

Imagine there is a competition and you can decide either you participate in it alone or together with a friend as a team. Now, having a team member can increase your winning probability only when yourself is strong. Otherwise, your friend will drag you down.

  • 2
    Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
    – deadrat
    Sep 12 '15 at 16:30
  • Despite the other, hopefully, typos in the second example, "...yourself are (is) strong..." sticks out the most. Sep 12 '15 at 20:01
  • Try to put the missing phrase in a sentence, as "____", to make clear how you think it is used. It might be "well known", but nothing rings a bell at this point.
    – Drew
    Sep 12 '15 at 20:31

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

This doesn't seem to fit the first part of the question, but fits using the example in the update. The idiom is often applied to teamwork and suggests that the team is only as effective as its least skilled, smallest, or weakest member.


Coach was wary placing someone as small as Tim on the defensive line because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

more info here


What about...

Sometimes the best helping hand you can get is fingerless.

  • Interesting suggestion. Thanks. However, it goes slightly beyond optimal dosage; for some, it can never be good.
    – Learner
    Sep 12 '15 at 16:25

'when the going gets tough, the tough get going' (proverb) translates as:

'in times of crisis, those who are most resilient and determined take action and prove their worth'.

The saying seems to have originated in 1954 as the slogan of American football coach, Frank Leahy. It gained wider circulation - and its applicability to politics - when Leahy made a speech in 1956 supporting Dwight D. Eisenhower's nomination for president of the U.S. It was also said to be a favourite family saying of Joseph P. Kennedy, U.S. politician, businessman and father of President John F. Kennedy.

Sources: The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, 2007 ; The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 2015


The phrase are you up for [to] the challenge? is often heard.

Similarly, rise to the challenge.


In reference to your first example, you could try, "while caustic, if strong enough, you may remain cautiously optimistic."

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," is an idiom befitting this situation.

"A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link," is an idiom befitting your second situation.

Hope these help!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.