Perhaps, just as sound might not exist without the ability to hear, wickedness and immorality might not exist without the ability to harm.
In other words, perhaps "thinketh no evil" might be translated more clearly as "thinketh nothing that would harm others if actually done to them"
I want to focus today first on the concept of harm as it relates to thoughts, then turn to actual examples of thought types that constitute "thinking evil" as it relates to harm.
The first thing that jumps to mind is the need to reiterate that causing harm can be done both to others and to self. Thus, "thinking evil" can apply to thoughts that would harm others if put into action, but it also can apply to thoughts that would harm one's self. The most obvious danger in considering this line of thought is that establishing what constitutes "harm" is a subjective exercise. The clearest example of this for a blog focused on religion, spirituality and righteousness is the fact that thoughts about how to preach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ as understood within the LDS Church would not be considered harmful in any way to a member of that church (or to many people who are members of other churches or religions) - but it would be considered of utmost harm by those who believe Mormons are destined for Hell. Thus, establishing exactly what constitutes harm to others and, therefore, thinking evil is, by nature, not an objective pursuit.
That does not relieve me, however, of the need to attempt to consider the question. If, as Paul asserts, charity includes thinking no evil, then it is critical to attempt to understand what he meant by that statement - and, if harm is tied intrinsically into that prohibition, how to define harm is a central issue. I turn, therefore, to the dictionary again to start.
"Harm" is defined best for this discussion as:
injury; damage; injustice; violation; negative distortion; degradation; abuse
So, "thinking evil" would constitute actively considering ways to injure, do damage, cause injustice, violate, distort negatively, degrade or abuse.
As I contemplated these examples, the first thing that registered was something I had not considered in the context of charity - at least not that charity is the primary principle being "violated" by it. That thing is pornography. I do not want to go into explicit detail in this post, but I do want to explain why that issue came to mind immediately - with a careful distinction between nudity and pornography.
1) I am bothered almost as much by the idea that all nudity is pornography as I am by pornography itself - and the thought process that led me to consider pornographic thoughts as something that is counter to charity led me also to make the clear distinction I mentioned above.
Nudity, in and of itself, is natural. It can be beautiful, although it certainly is not so in every instance. Most importantly for this discussion, however, there is nothing harmful (injurious or damaging) in simple nudity. It is what we do with nudity that makes it harmful - how we think about it with relation to others, particularly, that leads away from charity and toward harm.
2) Pornography can be defined to encompass various presentation methods, but I want to focus this post on the type of presentation method that is harmful in nature.
There are obvious examples of physically harmful presentations, and thinking actively of them probably constitutes the worst violation of charity with regard to this issue, but I believe there are other areas where harm is both real and profound. As I have spoken with people who view pornography of various kinds, I have been struck by how much of what they view is degrading, abusive, injurious, damaging, etc. to their perception of the type of people who are the objects of the actions being portrayed. In other words, many people start to view the people they see in pornographic presentations in the same way those people are portrayed therein.
Objectification is the most insidious result I hear described. Thinking of these presentations literally advances objectification as an acceptable, natural practice - and objectification (the act of impersonalizing people in order to use them for a selfish purpose) is perhaps the worst example of harm that can be done to human beings. This is true especially if one considers humans to be children of God. Removing that divine nature and creating mere things to be manipulated is the height of harm when viewed from a spiritual perspective.
Some people might say that there is no harm done if the people involved are consenting adults, but that argument ignores completely the effect of internalizing some people as those who act and other people as those who are acted upon. It also ignores the central message of Paul's focus on "thinking no evil" - in this case, not a presentation of nudity but a presentation of harmful practices and ideas and perspectives.
In summary, the key, it appears to me, with regard to this aspect of charity is that one's thoughts remain free from those images that, if acted upon, would harm someone - whether someone else or one's own self. Would those thoughts, if acted upon, cause harm in any way? Would they objectify in any way? Would they damage someone's perception of herself or himself as a child of God - of someone of infinite worth? If I allowed myself to do so, I could think of images that would do so; I can think of many images, however, that would not do so - that would not be pornographic or evil in that way.
Frankly, the inclusion of nudity, in and of itself, really has nothing to do with the difference between the two - and I believe, for this post, that is an important conclusion to make clear.