Here’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing to Eberhard Bethge, 6 May 1944:
I shall be writing next time about Christians’ “egoism” (“selfless self-love”). I think we agree about it. Too much altruism is oppressive and exacting; “egoism” can be less selfish and less demanding.
From Letters and Papers from Prison, p.287.
Sadly, Bonhoeffer appears not to have followed up on this statement in his subsequent letter, but it is a very useful principle to chew on and seek to apply in different circumstances. More subtle and interesting, if less amusing, than CS Lewis’ line about the “woman who lives for others – you can tell the others by their hunted expressions”.
There are certainly contexts in which I’ve found it particularly useful over the years: such as driving, where it is often safer (and shows more consideration for other road users) for a driver to behave in a predictable but “self-interested” manner than to cause confusion by excessive “altruistic” deferring to others.