3 : something that has the effect of a filter (as by holding back elements or modifying the appearance of something)
A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day to say that if she had a blog, her topic would be how much her filter interferes with seeing people the way God intends. She went on to tell me about a specific incident with someone she views as inconsiderate and how she views everything through this filter. Because of her past experiences, even innocent actions are held back by the preconception that they are coming from someone who puts themselves first.
My friend is right that she sees people through filters. We all do. And I think my friend is a step or two ahead of most people because she realizes that she has filters. It's nearly impossible for us not to make assumptions about people based on our past interactions with them, other events in our lives, our fears, our dreams, our prejudices. I'm not saying it's right for us to see other people through a specific frame of reference that might, at times, be a faulty one. But I am saying it's neither right nor wrong. It's simply how we are.
And the people who scare me the most are the people who go through life believing they have no filters. The people who think that because they see someone as stupid or selfish or lazy, it must be true. These people are scary because they'll never change. They'll plow right through life and run right over people with their self-satisfied ignorance.
If we take the time to analyze what our own filters are, I think that's the first step towards seeing people for who they really are, not who we think they are. I'm not implying things will go easily from there. Even when we identify our preconceptions, we have to then determine whether they are misconceptions or not. My friend has legitimately been hurt by the person she views through a filter. What's challenging is determining when she is seeing this person realistically and when she's judging harshly. It's not an easy line to walk. But I think the coward's way out is to not examine ourselves too closely, for fear of what we might see.