There was once a man who owned a very large barn. It was so huge that he was able to fill it with hundreds of animals. The barn was impressively spectacular and grew quite a reputation. Many who heard about the barn came to see the impressive sight and always left a generous donation.
This barn was, to say the least, the man's pride and joy as he had put all his investment into buying and maintaining it. All his attention, energy, and money went into its upkeep. He'd never admit it, but the truth was, he wasn't in the animal business because he cared about animals. He was in it so he could say he owned a big barn. He cared more about the barn, itself, than he did the animals that lived in it.
One night, when all the animals were asleep, intruders broke into the barn and stole all the animals. Later that morning, the intruders contacted the man who owned the barn.
"We are holding your animals ransom," the thieves told the man. "But we will let your animals live if you give us that beautiful barn of yours."
The man was forced to make a choice. Was he willing to sacrifice his animals or sacrifice his precious, beautiful barn that he worked so hard for?
After a moment to think, the man concluded that he was not willing to risk losing the barn because he had too much invested in it. It would be too great a loss.
So he told the thieves, "You're bluffing!"
But the thieves were not. And they said to him again, "We will let your animals live if you give us that beautiful barn of yours."
But the man refused to give in. The thought of losing everything was too much for him. He could never let go of his precious barn, even if it meant losing every single animal.
That night, the thieves followed through with their threat and slaughtered every animal.
"How unfortunate," the man thought when he heard the news about the animals. "But at least they didn't take my pride and joy, the precious barn."
But the man soon found out just how important the animals really were. Because there were no animals, people stopped coming to see the barn. And because people stopped coming to see the barn, he no longer received large donations. And because he no longer received large donations, he could no longer keep the barn looking spectacular. And because he could no longer keep the barn looking spectacular, the barn eventually lost all reputation until finally all the man had left was a hollow structure and a broken pride.
The man wept for days over his barn. He could not eat or sleep as he mourned the death of his barn. Finally, after much thought and many tears, the man lifted his head and said to himself, "I see, now. Oh what a foolish man I have been! If I had my priorities straight and cared for what was most important, I would have made the choice to save the animals. Then even if I lost the barn, I could have rebuilt it and in the end both would have been saved!"