Bacterial populations that are exposed to rapidly changing and sometimes hostile environments constantly switch between growth, survival, and death. Understanding bacterial survival and death are therefore cornerstones in a full comprehension of microbial life. During the last few years, new insights have emerged regarding the mechanisms of bacterial inactivation under stressful conditions. Particularly under mildly lethal stress, the ultimate cause of inactivation often seems mediated by the cell itself and is subject to additional regulation that integrates information about the global state of the cell and its environmental and social surrounding. This article explores the thin line between bacterial growth and inactivation and focuses on some emerging bacterial survival strategies, both from an individual cell and from a population perspective.